Weird Witch Hazel Fun Facts 

Witch hazel is an amazing and weird plant. Surrounded by lore, early settlers witnessed Native Americans using forked branches of witch hazel to find water. And the extract of the bark and wood is used as a mild astringent is used to treat everything from acne to eczema.

American Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.) .jpg

In terms of blooming times, there two types of witch hazel—one blooms in the late fall and the other blooms later in winter. But are particularly weird because they are blooming when literally no other plants are. Not only that but they are not pollinated by bees or butterflies like most other blooming plants. Witch hazel is blooming at a time after the butterflies have migrated south and at a time when most honeybees are hibernating for the winter.

So how are witch hazel pollinated?

Moths.

Shivering moths.

“It was the renowned  naturalist Bernd Heinrich who realized that there was a group of owlet moths (family Noctuidae) called winter moths that are active on cold nights. These moths have a remarkable ability to heat themselves by using energy to shiver, raising their body temperatures by as much as 50 degrees in order to fly in search of food. It is a group of these moths that pollinate witch hazels.” 

(You can read more in the article, Winter Sex: The Puzzling Case of Witch hazel)

http://www.venerabletrees.org/winter-sex-witchhazel/

Once pollinated, the seeds take an additional two years to make the journey to becoming a plant. 

Keep reading for more weird witch hazel fun facts. 

American Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.)

Common names: Witch hazel, American Witch hazel, Common Witch hazel, Winterbloom, Snapping Hazelnut, Striped Alder, Spotted Alder, Tobacco-wood, Water-witch

  • Deer resistant 
  • Moisture Tolerant
  • Clay tolerant
  • Part sun to part shade
  • Zone 4
  • 12 to 15 feet tall and wide
  • Yellow fragrant flowers October-November

In the autumn, after all the leaves have fallen, American witch hazel’s fragrant and its bright yellow flowers are often the only spots of color in the forest.

USDA Forest Service Fun Facts:

  1. The small, tanish to gray, hard capsules go dormant throughout the winter and then develop over the next growing season.
  2. In autumn, the plant forcibly expels two shiny black seeds 10 to 20 feet (sometimes as far as 40 feet!) 
  3. The seeds then take an additional year to germinate.

Pallida witchhazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Pallida’)

  • Deer resistant
  • Moisture Tolerant
  • Clay tolerant
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Zone 5
  • 9 to 12 feet tall and wide
  • Yellow flowers January – March

Hamamelis × intermedia hybrids are crosses between Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica) and Chinese witch hazel (H. mollis). Although with this hybrid you lose the fragrance, you gain more tolerance for full sun conditions. This variety blooms more in more light. Prune in spring after flowering to control shape and size.

Birgit witch hazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Birgit’)

  • Deer resistant 
  • Moisture Tolerant
  • Clay tolerant
  • Part sun to part shade
  • Zone 5
  • 9 to 12 feet tall and wide
  • Fragrant purplish-red flowers January – March

USDA Forest Service Fun Facts:

1. Genus name comes from the Greek words hama meaning “at same time” and “melon”—meaning apple or fruit in reference to the occurrence of both fruit and flowers at the same time on this shrub (particularly in the case of fall flowering members of the genus).

2. Hybrid name means intermediate in color, form or habit.

3. ’Birgit’ has purplish-red flowers—perhaps the darkest red of the cultivars available today. 

4. Each flower has four, narrow, ribbon-like, curled and slightly crinkled petals. Axillary clusters of these flowers bloom along the stems from late January to March. (Flowers are mildly fragrant.)

Ozark witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis ‘Purpurea’)

Ozark witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis ‘Purpurea’).jpg

 

  • Deer resistant 
  • Moisture Tolerant
  • Clay tolerant
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Zone 5
  • 9 to 12 feet tall and wide
  • Burgundy flowers February – March

Native to the Ozark Plateau, “it is typically found in gravelly stream beds, bases of rocky slopes along streams and less frequently in rocky wooded hillsides where it spreads by suckers to form large colonies. Flowers in axillary clusters appear in mid to late winter January-March in St. Louis [later in the northeast]. Each flower has four, narrow, ribbon-like, curled and crinkled petals that are usually red at the base transitioning to copper orange at the tip.” - Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Promptly remove root suckers to prevent colonial spread.

 

Ozark witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis ‘vernalis’)

View Image Gallery

  • Deer resistant 
  • Moisture Tolerant
  • Clay tolerant
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Zone 5
  • 9 to 12 feet tall and wide
  • Yellow and orange-to-red flowers February – March

‘Vernalis’ differs from  ‘Purpurea’ mainly in bloom color. ‘Vernalis’ has yellow and orange-to-red flowers with a spicy fragrance.