Late Bloomer

by Nancy Rose
November 10, 2015

yello-petaled flowers of common witch-hazel

Late Bloomer

flowers of common witch-hazel

Common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) flowers. Photo by Racz and Debreczy.

The most prominent feature of the November landscape at the Arboretum is the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs preparing for winter dormancy. So it’s a little surprising to come across a plant species that is just now in full bloom: common witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). This native shrub grows in woodlands throughout much of eastern North America. It is the only Hamamelis species to bloom in fall; all other species and hybrids bloom between mid-winter and early spring. In addition to being a handsome, adaptable shrub, common witch-hazel has long been harvested and processed to make witch-hazel extract, an astringent. Numerous accessions of common witch-hazel can be found in the North Woods (just off Meadow Road, before the Legume Collection) and along Valley Road. Look for clusters of flowers with ribbonlike yellow petals along the stems of common witchhazel.

3 thoughts on “Late Bloomer

  1. Lovely photo but aren’t the leaves usually still clinging to the branches when this shrub blooms? Hard to see then. I grow Ozark witch hazel in MN; it blooms in early spring on bare twigs and, when we have a late fall as this one, the leaves turn spectacular shades of orange and red.

  2. The Hamamelis virginiana in my back yard on Cape Cod has lost all its leaves but still has plenty of blossoms.

  3. Common witch-hazel certainly can still have some leaves on it when it starts blooming. The degree of leaf retention into late fall is variable among individual plants and can also be influenced by the weather in any particular year. Mary, the species you mentioned, Ozark or vernal witch-hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), is also known to sometimes retain dried leaves into winter. There’s no doubt that witch-hazel flowers are much more noticeable when there’s no competing foliage–some gardeners even pluck off persistent leaves to improve the floral show!

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