Hamamelis virginiana ( American Witchhazel, Witch Hazel, Common Witchazel) is a deciduous shrub native to North America. It belongs to the Hamamelidaceae family and is known for its distinctive flowers and medicinal properties.
Size and Appearance: American Witchhazel is a medium-sized shrub that typically grows to heights of 4-6 meters (12-20 feet) with a similar spread. It has an open, spreading habit with multiple stems arising from the base. The bark is smooth and grayish-brown in color.
Leaves: The leaves of Witch Hazel are alternate, simple, and ovate in shape with wavy or irregular margins. They are typically 7-15 centimeters (3-6 inches) long and turn vibrant yellow in the fall before dropping.
Flowers: One of the most distinctive features of Hamamelis virginiana is its flowers. The flowers are small, fragrant, and typically appear in late fall or early winter, usually after the leaves have fallen. They have narrow, strap-like petals that are usually yellow, although they can occasionally be red or orange. The flowers often appear in clusters and provide a unique and beautiful display.
Fruit: After pollination, Witch Hazel produces capsules that resemble tiny, woody fruits. These capsules contain seeds and usually persist on the plant even after the leaves have fallen. As the capsules dry and split open, they forcefully eject the seeds, sometimes up to several meters away from the plant.
Medicinal Uses: Witch Hazel has a long history of medicinal use. The bark, leaves, and twigs of the plant are distilled to create an astringent liquid commonly known as Witch Hazel extract. This extract has been traditionally used to treat various skin conditions, including insect bites, rashes, and minor cuts. It is known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
In landscaping, Hamamelis virginiana is valued for its late-season bloom and vibrant fall foliage. It is often planted as an ornamental shrub in gardens and parks. Witch Hazel thrives in well-drained soil and prefers partial shade to full sun.