Herb - Witch Hazel


Hamamelis spp.

(ham-ah MAY-liss)


FAMILY:           Hamamelidaceae

TYPE:  Deciduous ornamental tree

LOCATION:      Full sun to part shade

PLANTING:       Plant from containers year round. Take cutting in late winter. Can be grown from seed but takes two years to germinate.

HEIGHT:           10 to 15 feet

SPREAD:          8 to 10 feet

FINAL SPACING:  8 to 10 feet

BLOOM/FRUIT: Golden-yellow flowers on stems in the fall and winter after leaves have fallen. The flowers of some species have a red or purple cast near the base. Seeds form inside woody capsules. Fruit and flowers form simultaneously. The seed are ejected from the capsules when ripe.

GROWTH HABITS/CULTURE:   Witch hazel is a large shrub or small tree that has fragrant yellowish flowers in the fall. It likes moist soil and has yellow fall color. It seems to be happy in a wide range of soils.

PROBLEMS:  Few serious ones

HARVEST/STORAGE:   Harvest the foliage anytime, the new young leaves are the best for teas. Collect the seed after they mature in the fall.

CULINARY USE:  Seeds are edible and the leaves are used in herb teas.

MEDICINAL USE:   Extracts, lotions, and salves are made from the bark, stems and leaves by a distillation process. Witch hazel has been used for its disinfectant and astringent properties to treat skin problems. Hamamelis virginiana is a good skin tonic when taken as a tea. It has also been used as a gargle for sore throats.

LANDSCAPE USES:  Witch hazel is an attractive small tree and should be used more in the landscape.

OTHER USES:  This is the tree commonly used to make divining rods to find water and mineral deposits. Seed are excellent bird food.

INSIGHT:    Vernal witch hazel, H. vernalis, is more shrubby and blooms in the winter or early spring. A distillate of witch hazel was once used by barbers on nicks and cuts.




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