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)

2 thoughts on “Winter-bloom

  1. Nice photo! I tried to take some pictures of witch hazel in North Park a few days ago. They did not turn out as well, maybe because my beagle took off, dragging her leash behind her, just as I was getting the right angle and focus. I had to take off after her. Oh well. I love to find the delicate little flowers after all the leaves are gone.

  2. There are some hybrid Chinese and Japanese Witch Hazels that bloom in late February and early March. Their fragrance is delicate and wonderful.

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