Hamamelis vernalis ( Vernal Witchazel, Ozark Witchhazel, Spring Blooming Witch Hazel) is a deciduous shrub native to the central and southeastern United States. It belongs to the Hamamelidaceae family, like other Witch Hazel species, and is known for its early blooming flowers.
Size and Appearance: Vernal Witchazel is a medium-sized shrub that typically reaches heights of 2-4 meters (6-12 feet) with a similar spread. It has a rounded or spreading habit and multiple stems arising from the base. The bark is smooth and grayish-brown.
Leaves: The leaves of Vernal Witchazel are alternate, simple, and obovate to elliptical in shape. They are typically 5-12 centimeters (2-5 inches) long with wavy or serrated margins. The leaves turn vibrant yellow, orange, or red in the fall before dropping.
Flowers: The flowers of Hamamelis vernalis are its main attraction. They appear in late winter to early spring, usually before the leaves emerge, hence the common name "Spring Blooming Witch Hazel." The flowers are small, fragrant, and have narrow, strap-like petals in shades of yellow, orange, or red. They are arranged in clusters and provide a welcome burst of color during the early spring months.
Fruit: After pollination, Vernal Witchazel produces woody capsules that contain small, black seeds. These capsules mature and persist on the plant for several months, often staying on the shrub even after the leaves have fallen. The capsules eventually split open, releasing the seeds.
Landscape Use: Hamamelis vernalis is valued for its early spring bloom, which adds interest and color to gardens and landscapes. It is often planted as an ornamental shrub in borders, woodland gardens, and naturalized areas. The shrub prefers moist, well-drained soil and can tolerate a range of light conditions from full sun to partial shade.
It's worth noting that Hamamelis vernalis is one of several Witch Hazel species cultivated for their ornamental value. Other popular species include Hamamelis virginiana and Hamamelis mollis. Each species has its own unique characteristics and bloom times.