Witch hazel-Katie Stannard

Witch hazel’s curly, ribbon-like flowers bloom in October and November. Photo: Katie Stannard.

Young witch hazel fruit-BS Walters-michiganfloranet

Young witch hazel fruit. Photo: B.S. Walters, michiganflora.net.

Witch hazel leaves-R Schipper-michiganfloranet

Witch hazel leaves. Photo: R. Schipper, michiganflora.net.

By Katie Stannard
Thank you for native plants!
Our recent Wednesday posts have featured invasive plants. Now, in the spirit of gratitude this November, it’s time to say “thank you” to our native plants.
This week we’re bringing back witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). Witch hazel has bright-yellow, fragrant flowers that bloom from late September into November. Beautiful flower clusters on stems contain four wavy, ribbon-like petals, each half to three-quarters of an inch long.
Common names for witch hazel are winterbloom and snapping hazel—so named because seed heads open explosively when dry, projecting seeds 10-20 feet! Fruits begin as moth-pollinated flowers that develop through winter and into the next year’s growing cycle. Initially green, they become light brown, woody, two-part seed capsules that look like furry acorns. Each capsule contains one black, quarter-inch glossy seed.
Found in the eastern half of North America from Florida to Nova Scotia, this deciduous shrub or small tree is well-suited to a range of garden conditions. In its native range of zones 3-8, it generally grows to 10-15 feet with arching branches that form dense, multi-stemmed clumps. Adaptable in sun and shade, some recommend planting in semi-shaded sites, like the north side of a home, noting its origins as an understory plant.
Witch hazel shrub-R Schipper-michigan flora net

Witch hazel shrub. Photo: R. Schipper, michiganflora.net

Witch hazel blooms-Katie Stannard

Witch hazel blooms. Photo: Katie Stannard.

Home garden uses include naturalized areas, rain gardens, woodland gardens, borders, and hedges. It prefers well-drained, acidic, moist but not soggy soils amended with plenty of organic material. But it holds up well in clay soils, also tolerating erosion and some deer browsing.
Witch hazel provides four season interest with its amazing late-season blooms, interesting winter bark, and appealing, dark green oval leaves that turn deep gold. It also has a long and fascinating history of uses from Native American ethnobotany to contemporary medicinal uses.
#nativeplantoftheweek #matthaeinichols #umichnature