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American Witchhazel - Hamamelis virginiana


Family: Hamamelidaceae - Witch-hazel family Genus Common Name: Witchhazel Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Tree Shrub
Hamamelis virginiana - American Witchhazel. There are two Witchhazel species found in the United States, and two more Asian species. Hamamelis vernalis - Ozark Witchhazel - is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. The species presented here, Hamamelis virginiana, is much more widespread, being found not only in those four states, but also every state east of the Mississippi River and every Mississippi River border state west of the river. It is also found in most of eastern Canada.

This small tree or shrub is unusual in that it blooms in the fall or even early winter rather than in warmer months. The seedpods open explosively, tossing the seeds up to 30 feet from the parent tree. Two years later the seed may germinate, adding to the dense understory Witchhazel helps create in its forest habitat.

Witchhazel has long been used by Native Americans as a medicinal plant for a variety of maladies, and it therefore came into use by the American colonists for similar purposes. It is still used as an astringent made from the leaves and bark, and is used in lotions, washes, ointments, and soaps.

Found in:
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV

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Hamamelis virginiana

Distribution of Hamamelis virginiana in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 24 Nov 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Waterfalls Trail, Cloudland Canyon State Park, Dade County, GA Date: 2012-December-05Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
The blossoms of Witchhazel have 4 twisted, threadlike petals that are each about an inch long. There may be two or more clustered on short petioles around the bare stem, giving the appearance of a blossom with many petals.
Hamamelis virginiana

Site: Long Branch Preserve, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-November-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The flower of Hamamelis virginiana has 4 greenish-yellow calyx lobes and 4 long, narrow, twisted, yellow petals; in this photo backed to another flower, giving a spider-like appearance. The other U.S. Witchhazel species, Hamamelis vernalis (Ozark Witchhazel, which indicates its range), has purple calyx lobes and reddish to red or orange petals. Probably indicative of some hybridization, where their ranges overlap, H. vrginiana may have some reddish tint to the petals and H. vernalis may occasionally have yellow petals.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Hamamelis virginiana

Site: Long Branch Preserve, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-November-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Witchhazel is a plant of the forest understory, a shrub or tree up to 30 feet tall (although more frequently much shorter.) They are easy to spot when in bloom since it is when the leaves are falling or have already fallen from it and the surrounding trees; in the fall for H. virginiana and winter for H. vernalis.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Hamamelis virginiana

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer