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Witch-Hazel - Hamamelis virginiana

Witch-Hazel - Hamamelis virginiana

Hamamelis virginiana, also known as Witch-Hazel, is a perennial shrub native to Michigan and the U.P.  It grows as a shrub or small tree up to 18 feet tall, with one trunk or several, and tends to be bushy, with rich green foliage on long horizontal branches. The bloom time is actually from mid to late fall (September-November, depending on the year.) Blossoms are a loose, almost scraggly collection of yellow petals that are fragrant. The bloom time is lengthly, about 3 weeks, and occurs after leaves have dropped.


Such a late bloom time would seem to preclude time to ripen seeds, but the seeds spend the whole year maturing. The following year, during bloom time, the previous year's seeds pop explosively out of the seed capsules. The seeds shoot 10 to 20 feet, allowing the shrub to spread under ideal conditions. Witch-Hazel is low-maintenance, but sometimes suckers. If suckering occurs, you can leave suckers for a dense bush, or trim them off. If the sucker has roots, you can use it to start a new tree.


Which-Hazel prefers to be an understory plant in savannas and woodlands. Depending on what source you check, it likes moist deciduous forests and stream banks (Missouri Botanical Gardens), or  sandy soils and gets along well with oak, hickory, aspen, and pine (Michigan Flora). It will tolerate as wide a range of sun as soil, from full sun (with moisture) to full shade (reduces blooms). My conclusion is that it ideally wants part or dappled shade and medium-moisture, well-drained soil, but can tolerate a wide range of other conditions, even clay.


Witch-Hazel seeds are eaten by grouse and mammals, and it is one of the last sources of food for late-season pollinators such as owlet moths, flies, wasps, and certain bees. It has many traditional medicinal uses.


Please note, we do not grow this plant from seed; we source it from a downstate nursery. The nursery has reported that, although they verify their stock to be free of Neonicotinoids, they do use other pesticides. Each gallon pot will contain a 6-12" shrub.


We will continue to search for a U.P. seed source so that we can offer this plant up to our normal standards. However, we offer this nursery plant in the meantime because using a native plant to landscape instead of a similarly-raised cultivar will ultimately benefit the habitat, especially for a long-lived shrub. If you have wild, well established, native Witch Hazel on your property and would like to trade seed for plants, let us know.

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