Hamamelis virginiana

Kingdom: Plant

Phylum: Angiosperm

Class: Dicot

Order: Saxifragales

Family: Hamamelidaceae

Genus: Hamamelis

Species: virginiana

Where in the OLL?

Located in the Botanical Garden because of its unusual flowering time, distinct leaf shape, and attractive shrub growth habit. It also grows in the understory of the GCC forest.

Plant growth form

  • Shrub/Tree, usually grows to between 10-15ft (maximum height of 35ft)
  • Woody perennial
  • Deciduous
  • Fall appearance, usually blooms in October and flowers persist through the winter
  • Simple wavy-edged leaf with alternate arrangement, uneven leaf base
  • Leaves turn goldish yellow before falling

Flowers, fruits & pollinators

  • Small, cluster of flowers
  • Yellow in color
  • Flowers in October, or early fall
  • Flowers stay after leaves have fallen and continue to bloom through winter
  • Flowers have a faint scent that has been described as ‘spicy’ but ‘pleasant’
  • Monecious flower (meaning each flower has the ability to create pollen or ovules but only one the reproductive structures develops in a given flower)
  • Four fused sepals per one singular flower
  • Petals are small, yellow, rectangular, stringy in appearance
  • About 11-12 petals per cluster, four per flower.
  • Pistils come in clumps of three to one node.
  • Two styles per one singular flower
  • Four stamens per one singular flower

Ideal location, conditions & cultural needs

  • Happiest under shady trees, but is a very tolerant plant when it comes to light exposure and moisture.
  • Soil can be acidic, sandy, silty, etc. Witch Hazel is not picky.  However, it is not commonly found in clay-rich soil in nature.

Planning & maintenance

  • Growing Witch Hazel is surprisingly easy:
    • Resistant to most pests and diseases
    • Can grow fairly large (10-20 feet) but pruning (before summer to avoid killing any buds) can keep it small and maintainable.
    • If you keep your plant indoors, it will not bloom. It needs a bit of chilly weather to get started.
    • Very shade-tolerant, but does best in part shade-part sun.

Cultivars & propagation

  • Very difficult to grow from a cutting, not recommended
  • Plants can be purchased at Nasami Farm (where they are grown from seed)

Pests & pathogens

  • An insect known as a Weevil has developed a specific love for Witch Hazel. They spend their lives on the plant, laying eggs in the fruit so that larvae can eat the fruit and the seeds, then later the leaves, and eventually continue to reproduce. This severely damages Witch Hazel’s ability to reproduce.
  • No known diseases seriously affect Witch Hazel. They can be susceptible to a few types of fungi that will result in spotting on the leaves, but it will not seriously harm the plant.
  • After distribution, seeds continue to lay dormant for another year on the forest floor. This is an issue for the plant because the seeds are commonly picked up by birds and small mammals as a snack.

Landscape & ecosystem

Witch Hazel Growth Range

  • Flowers are available to pollinators in late fall and winter
  • Seeds are a common snack for birds and small forest animals on the forest floor
  • Adds color and diversity to a landscape


Human uses

  • Witch Hazel is anti inflammatory and has been used for all kinds of illnesses by Native Americans. When brewed for tea, Witch Hazel is used for things such as sore throat, fever, and menstrual cramps. Native Americans also used it in steam baths to combat colds and general coughs. They used the leaves and bark to treat sore muscles and swelling. European colonists began to use Witch Hazel when they saw its medicinal properties. Witch Hazel extract from leaves, bark and twigs is still used today. Connecticut is the hub of Witch Hazel growth and harvest. Use of Witch Hazel is both topical and oral but an over consumption can lead to medical issues. 
  • It has forked branches that were believed to be originally used as divining rods (a rod used to find water.)
Plant catalogued by Sarah Lacoy
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