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Hamamelis virginiana is often confused with:
Corylopsis veitchiana Flowers close up
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Ulmus alata Ulmus alata
Quercus nigra Quercus nigra
Tilia americana Tilia americana

Common Witchhazel Hamamelis virginiana

Previously known as:

  • Hamamelis macrophylla
  • Hamamelis virginica var. macrophylla
Phonetic Spelling
ham-ah-MAY-lis ver-jin-ee-AY-nah
Description

Witch-Hazel is a native deciduous shrub or small tree that may grow 15 to 20 feet tall.  Found growing along woodland margins and stream banks in the eastern part of North America from Canada down to Mexico. This woody ornamental shrub flowers anywhere from late fall to late winter with cheery yellow spider-like blooms that brighten dreary winter landscapes.  The genus name Hamamelis comes from the Greek word hama for at the same time and melon which means fruit which refers to the fact that the plant can have both flowers and fruits appear at the same time, a somewhat rare feature.  The species name virginiana means the plant is from Virgina.

The leaves are alternate with an unequal, wavy margin and hairy stem, turning an attractive yellow color in the fall. The bark is smooth and gray to gray-brown. In winter, bright yellow flowers with very slender petals (resemble yellow spiders) mature. The small tree produces a woody, brown capsule, 1/2 inch long and nearly as wide, containing two shiny black seeds.

Plant in full sun to partial shade though the best flowering will be seen in full sun locations.  Soil should be moist, acidic, organically rich and well-draining.    Pruning is not usually necessary except to maintain its shape.  Pruning can be done in early spring.   Witch hazel is intolerant of drought but it does tolerate heavy clay soil, erosion, and browsing by deer.

Plant in a winter garden or along a woodland margin.  Its dense canopy makes for a good spring and summer screen or tall hedge.  Specimens can be pruned into small trees and used as a patio planting.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Flowers in axillary clusters, 4 ligulate petals
  • Deciduous shrub to small tree with zig-zag twigs
  • Leaf buds and young twigs tomentose

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No serious pests.  Caterpillars, Japanese beetles, leaf gall aphids, weevils, scale, leafroller, and leafminer are occasional pests. Powdery mildew, leaf spots, and rots are occasional diseases.  The foliage may be subject to damage from insect galls (small wasps) but it does not harm the plant.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Little Suzie', 'Peggy Clarke'
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#fragrant flowers#specimen#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#nectar plant#velvety#winter interest#fall interest#flowering tree#erosion control#hedges#moist soil#food source wildlife#fire low flammability#NC native#well-drained soil#large shrub#rich soils#flowering shrub#gold leaves#deer resistant#children's garden#native garden#playground plant#edible fruits#border planting#hairy leaves#acidic soils tolerant#screening#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#food source fall#food source herbage#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#partial shade tolerant#flowers late winter#flowers mid-winter#flowers early winter#flowers late fall#erosion tolerant#drought intolerant#shrub borders#woodland garden#woodland
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Little Suzie', 'Peggy Clarke'
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#fragrant flowers#specimen#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#nectar plant#velvety#winter interest#fall interest#flowering tree#erosion control#hedges#moist soil#food source wildlife#fire low flammability#NC native#well-drained soil#large shrub#rich soils#flowering shrub#gold leaves#deer resistant#children's garden#native garden#playground plant#edible fruits#border planting#hairy leaves#acidic soils tolerant#screening#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#food source fall#food source herbage#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#partial shade tolerant#flowers late winter#flowers mid-winter#flowers early winter#flowers late fall#erosion tolerant#drought intolerant#shrub borders#woodland garden#woodland
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Hamamelis
    Species:
    virginiana
    Family:
    Hamamelidaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Various medicinal uses, especially for skincare
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America
    Distribution:
    North from Quebec throughout New England south to FL west to TX and OK, north through Missouri, IO, and MN
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Flowers are pollinated by noctuid moths. Wild turkeys eat the seeds. Deer may browse leaves. Fruit is eaten by small mammals and birds.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape.
    Edibility:
    Seeds
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Open
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Seed capsules initially green, mature to light brown and become woody with age. Capsule contain two black seeds. A two-valved dihiscent capsule. Displays from October to November.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Yellow spidery flowers with four crinkly, ribbon-shaped petals that appear along the branches from October to December. Slender petaled flower. Inflorescence a cyme in leaf axils.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Orange
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Feel:
    Velvety
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    In-equilateral wavy margined dark green above and paler below leaf. Alternate, ovate to obovate, toothed, base oblique; leaf buds pubescent.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Young stems zig-zag, pubescent; older glabrous, smooth.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Erosion
    Fire