A late bloomer

In the winter forest, the witch hazel stands out with its sulfur colored flowers and bright yellow buds. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), is a medium sized, multi-stemmed shrub that grows in the understory of many of our local forests. The blooms begin at leaf drop, and the small flowers remain on the trees throughout most of the winter. There are two species of Witch Hazel found throughout the world, one of which is a native to the eastern part of the US and Canada, while the other is found in China and Japan. Despite their name, witch hazel is not part of the Hazel family. “Witch” is derived from the old English word, “wiche,” that means “bendable or pliable,” and the twigs of this plant are used as divining rods for finding underground water.

Native Americans boiled the bark and leaves of witch hazel to produce an astringent that had a number of medicinal uses. Today the plant continues to be used in a number of products for insect bites, poison ivy, soap, acne medication, varicose veins, and hairsprays, to name a few. Witch hazel distillates are also used by craftspeople in the restoration of old varnishes.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature note for 10/17/20