Spotlight on Witchhazel

Profusion of yellow blooms on my Witchhazel!

October morning

Witchhazel blossoms shine bright

With the rising sun ~ Lynn Amber

My witchhazel tree has taken center stage in my garden this week. Blooming in late October and November, this plant is found all over the eastern part of the United States – east of the Mississippi, west to Texas, north to Nova Scotia and south to Florida. It is hardy to zone 3 and virtually disease and insect free. While there are many Asian hybrids of witchhazel on the market today, the native plant – Hamamelis viginiana – is my favorite.

The name witch hazel is thought to be derived from an old English word, wyche. Wyche has its word origins in Germany and translates as “to bend.” The branches of the witchhazel are extremely flexible giving rise to the descriptive word wyche being used in its name. Over time, the spelling seems to have changed to a more modern “witch.” The tree is associated with hazelnuts due to its similar leaf and fruit. So, quite possibly, the original common name was wyche hazel!! 🙂

European settlers to America observed the Native Americans using the branches of witch hazel as a divining rod for finding water – what we term dowsing. Today, many landowners in Vermont still use dowsers when trying to find a new source of water. Although I suspect it is becoming a lost art.

Witchhazel was also used medicinally by Native Americans for the treatment of many conditions and is found in many skin care products today. The leaves, bark and branches are used as an astringent for topical applications on skin to reduce inflammation, bleeding, common skin irritations and is reported to have anti-bacterial properties. All in all, a very useful and aesthetic plant!!

Although the witch hazel is drawing all the attention right now in my front garden, other plants are also shining.

My Fothergilla gardenii is finally starting to turn color. This is an extraordinary plant with brilliant red and orange fall color. Another favorite native plant that I adore!

Fothergilla gardenii

Before the robins devour all my winterberry holly berries, I thought I’d capture another photograph of a large clump of berries hidden in the middle of the shrub. I watched the robins en masse this morning raiding the bushes and gorging on berries!

Ilex verticillata – Winterberry Holly

Finally, our blueberry bushes are putting on their fall display and are at peak color right now.

Blueberry leaves wearing their fall outfit!

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