Winter-flowering Witch Hazel

Orange-flowered Witch Hazel, a Hamamelis species, at Bishop’s Palace Garden, Wells, Somerset. © Karen Andrews
Yellow-flowered Witch Hazel, a Hamamelis species, at Bishop’s Palace, Wells, Somerset. © Karen Andrews

Winter Colour

Witch Hazels are one of the best performing winter shrubs. They offer attractive, fragrant flowers on bare stems when the season lacks colour from December into March. The striking colour range includes yellows, pinks, reds and oranges. The petals look spider-like or ribbon-like appearance. The buds are brown and velvety before they open.

Plant Family and Name

The shrub is a member of the Hamamelidaceae or Witch Hazel family. The Hamamelis genus contains 4 species which originate from China, Japan or North America. Confusingly, Hamamelis is the Ancient Greek name for the Wych Elm, Ulmus glabra. The common name of Witch Hazel is not as it seems either. It has nothing to do with witches. Instead it comes from the Middle English word wiche, meaning pliable or bendable.

Medicinal Uses

Traditionally, the bark and leaves of Witch Hazel were used medicinally, particularly as an eye lotion. Witch Hazel is still used today to alleviate bruising and swollen veins.

Autumn Performer Too

Witch Hazel does not just provide colour in winter when there is little on offer, it also has beautiful autumn leaf colours to brighten the garden.

Autumn colours of Witch Hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’. Photo credit: Steven Severinghaus CC via Flickr.

© Karen Andrews

References and Further Reading

  • Christenhusz, Maarten J. M. & Fay, Michael F. & Chase, Mark W. (2017): Plants of the World. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Vascular Plants. Kew, Chicago.
  • Hoyland, John (2021): The best Witch Hazel to grow. Gardens Illustrated. 17 November 2021
  • Phillips, Roger & Rix, Martyn (2002): The Botanic Garden. Volume 1 Trees and Shrubs. Macmillan, London.

Note

Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

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