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Witch-hazels in bloom!

by William (Ned) Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum
January 28, 2017

Tree of the Month_witchhazels

Witch-hazels in bloom!

They said it couldn’t be done: seeing all five extant species of witch-hazel (genus Hamamelis) in flower at the same time (indeed the same day). But, after three weeks of scouting, I have accomplished the impossible. This past Wednesday, with sun and brilliant blue skies warming the flowers (and me), I did it!


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Starting with the common witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) that normally blooms in the fall, I have been tracking a laggard (right, second from top, 22878*A) eking out a few last flowers (for the official record, the anthers had not yet dehisced to release pollen). The Chinese witch-hazels (Hamamelis mollis, main image; 502-2016*A) are just getting going, and the Ozark witch-hazels (Hamamelis vernalis) are pretty close to peak (second from bottom right; 6099*D, planted in 1908). Same for the rare and endangered bigleaf witch-hazel (Hamamelis ovalis, upper right; 113-2009*A). The tricky part is the Japanese witch-hazel (Hamamelis japonica), which blooms a little later in the winter. But, I found two flowers open on one of our big specimens (bottom right; 10161*A) to make it official. What a walk!

This is the very weekend to set out and bag five species of witch-hazel in bloom. If the sun is shining and it is not too cold, you might even glimpse one of the intrepid insect pollinators doing its work. To read more about the witch-hazels in the Arboretum, here is a wonderful article in Arnoldia and my post last year on the very topic.

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