After the leaves have fallen there's one surprising bright spot in November's forest - a yellow flowering tree nicknamed Winter-bloom.
Common Witch-hazel (Hamaelis virginiana) is a shrub or tree, 10-25 feet tall, that defies the odds and blooms from September through November. Its ragged yellow flowers aren't noticable during October's splash of colors but now they stand alone, odd but beautiful.
Witch-hazel has other odd traits.
- Though it blooms in the fall, it doesn't set fruit until the following August, nearly a year later.
- Just before it blooms the old fruit explodes, dispersing seeds up to 20 feet away.
- Witch-hazel can find water; its branches are used as divining rods. (Is that the "witch" part?)
- And you probably have witch-hazel in your medicine cabinet, an extract from its bark.
Witch-hazel is a good tree for wildlife as its buds, seeds and twigs provide food for ruffed grouse, pheasants, bobwhite, deer, rabbits and beaver.
It's good for me too because it makes me happy to see the winter bloom.
(photo by Dianne Machesney)