Watch for Witch Hazel

Witch hazel flowers catch the light after the leaves are gone, November (photo by Kate St. John)

When the leaves are gone these lacy flowers stand out in the forest.

American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blooms from late October into December in eastern North America.  Its delicate yellow flowers smell like lemon.

Witch hazel flower, October in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Since witch hazel blooms when few insects are out how are the flowers pollinated?

In 1987 Bernd Heinrich found that owlet moths come out at night to sip the flowers and thereby pollinate them.

The moths survive cold weather by hiding under leaf litter during the day, then shivering to warm up and fly at night. Click here to learn more.

(photos by Kate St. John)

2 thoughts on “Watch for Witch Hazel

  1. Curious…..Witch Hazel is one of the longest maturing fruits I know – pollinated in the fall; ripening in the spring. Have you ever documented is progress from reproduction to maturity?

    1. Rosanne, I haven’t documented its progress but I’m sure some botanists have. There might even be stage by stage samples in Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

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