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Witch hazel
Hamamelis virginiana

What is witchy about this winter wonder?

Well, it certainly is wonderful to look at in the winter, when it blooms when nothing else does. What a yellow warm surprise!

I was convinced there had to be something to do with witches. Some one told me once it’s named that because it blooms in the winter, and only witchcraft could create that. I like that story, however I don’t think it’s true. It sounds like (according to wikipedia) that the word “witch” in this case is related to a Middle and Old English word “wiche / wice” meaning pliant or bendable.

It’s also possible, since the twigs were used as divining rods, that that might have influenced the “witch” part of the name.

In any case, I’d love to learn how to get the extract from the bark, and see what ointments or balms could be made…

Alternate Name: American Witch-hazel, Common Witch-hazel, Winterbloom, Snapping Hazelnut, Striped Alder, Spotted Alder, Tobacco-wood, Water-witch
Size: 10-15' tall or taller.
Family: Hamamelidaceae (Witch-Hazel Family)
Habitat: Slightly acidic, moist or well-drained woods, thickets, bottomlands
Identification: "Often multi-trunked and usually grows10-15 ft. tall but can reach 35 ft. in height. The large, crooked, spreading branches form an irregular, open crown. The floral display of witch hazel is unique. Its fragrant, yellow flowers with strap-like, crumpled petals appear in the fall, persisting for some time after leaf drop. Lettuce-green, deciduous leaves maintain a rich consistency into fall when they turn brilliant gold. Bark is smooth and gray." From wildflower.org  Blooms September-December
Uses: "Commercial witch-hazel, an astringent liniment, is an alcohol extract of witch- hazel bark. Witch-hazel oil has been used in medicines, eye-washes, after shave lotions and salves for soothing insect bites, burns and poison ivy rashes."
All text and photos copyright © 2022 Middle Way Nature Reserve, unless noted.
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