COMMON NAMES: WINTER BLOOM, SPOTTED-ALDER, TOBACCO-WOOD, PISTACHIO, SNAPPY HAZEL, WITCH-ELM
Hamamelis virginiana ham-a-MAY-liss vir-gin-ee-AYN-ah
Hamamelidaceae (Witch Hazel Family)
Deciduous ornamental tree that for full sun to partial shade as an understory plant.
HEIGHT: 10 to 15 feet
SPREAD: 8 to 10 feet
FINAL SPACING: 8 to 10 feet
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Grows wild in East Texas and also Central Texas usually near creeks and streams as an understory plant. It adapts to various soils and does well in landscape situations or in the herb garden.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Witch Hazel is a shrubby plant or small open-growing tree to a maximum height of about 20 feet, single or multi trunk with an irregularly shaped top. Foliage and flowers are distinctive and the fall color is usually quite good.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Golden yellow flowers in the fall and winter after the leaves have fallen. Flowers of some species have a red or purple cast near the base. Fruit and flowers form simultaneously. Seed form inside woody capsules and are ejected when ripe. Fruit ripens the second season. Seed are torpedo shaped, black and shiny. Seeds are sometimes shot out when the capsule dries sometimes traveling several yards from the mother plant.
FOLIAGE: Leaves are alternate, deciduous, golden-yellow in the fall, 2 to 6 inches long with an uneven base. In the summer they are deep olive green above with prominent principal veins, paler below and hairy below.
BARK: Deep brown and smooth when young, becoming scaly with maturity, often having blotches and horizontal markings.
CULTURE: Witch hazel is an easy to grow plant in various well-drained soil, works very well as an understory plant, but can take full sun as well.
PROBLEMS: Few other than scarce availability in the nursery trade.
PROPAGATION: By planting seed just before or as they are ejected, best to get them just before the capsules split open. They may be stored for a year at 41 degrees or stratified in sand or peat at 41 degrees for about 90 days. Soaking the seed in hot water prior to stratification is said to help. Some seed do not germinate until the second year. Witch hazel is also propagated by layering.
INSIGHT: Witch hazel is a wonderful little tree that should be planted more often. The name comes from the fact that dousers or diviners like to use this plant for finding water. Seed are edible and leaves are used in herb teas. Seeds are excellent bird food.