Herb - Witch Hazel
COMMON NAMES: WITCH HAZEL
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.