Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hamamelis virginiana, a.k.a. Witchhazel


Now I know why this plant has been associated with witches: it blooms in the winter! Or more precisely, in November, after the leaves have dropped from its branches.

The flowers are small and yellow, made up of delicate threads that drop away after a few weeks, and a tougher little cup-like shape, that persists throughout the winter. This makes them very easy to identify on snowy winter days.
This picture shows the cup-portion of the tiny flowers against a backdrop of snow.
The other oddity about witchhazel is that it is one of the only plants that bears its fruits, flowers, and buds all at the same time. However at this time of year the empty hard shell of the fruits seem to have dropped off. I need to watch them more closely next year, because, apparently, the seed pods pop open violently enough to fling the seeds many feet! This may make it difficult to collect the seeds. . .
We have at least four witchhazels along the edges of our marsh, including a grand specimen that is about fifteen feet tall and just as wide, and as perfectly round as any anal retentive gardener could want. (Which I find amusing, because I am anything but.)

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