One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A downy, hanging flowering spike of trees such as willow and hazel, pollinated by the wind.
- ‘Live oaks produce male flowers called catkins that bloom in hanging clusters.’
- ‘Some varieties shed pollen from the male catkins before the female flowers are receptive, and so require pollen from another variety with a later pollen maturation date.’
- ‘Pin oaks produce drooping wind-pollinated male flowers called catkins; the female flowers come in groups of one to three just as the leaves begin to unfold.’
- ‘In winter, they are most readily observed feeding in trees with catkins, such as birch and alder.’
- ‘They also eat fruits, berries, twigs, leaves, catkins, and seeds.’
Late 16th century: from obsolete Dutch katteken ‘kitten’.
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