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Watching for Witch Hazel Flowers

Witch Hazel Flowers

Witch hazel flowers are an interesting sight to behold. The petals on the small flowers are thin and wild. The shrub blooms during the most unlikeliest time of the year.

It is one of my favorite plants in the Ozarks. She is an untamed rebel, even if she or her hybridized cousins do grow well in urban gardens or hedgerows.

Two Wild Species

We have two varieties of witch hazel here in the Ozarks. One blooms in late fall and the other blooms in late winter.

H. virginiana

Hamamelis virginiana is by far the most abundant here on our land. This witch hazel blooms in late fall with spidery yellow flowers. Sometimes you’ll even see it blooming after the leaves have dropped off.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) flowers and autumn color.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) flowers and autumn color.

H. virginiana grows in many areas east of the Rockies in the United States, usually around water’s edge or in rich, moist woodlands.

Witch hazel leaves in summer. (H. virginiana)
Witch hazel leaves in summer. (H. virginiana)

H. vernalis

The other species is called Ozark Witch Hazel, or Vernal Witch Hazel. This one is endemic only to the Ozarks and blooms in late winter or very early spring. These witch hazel flowers are more of a reddish, orange color. I’ve heard they have a delightful fragrance, too, but I haven’t caught them in full bloom to get a firsthand experience.

Ozark witch hazel flowers, just before the petals opened or right after they fell off. This photo was taken in Feb. 2015.
Ozark witch hazel flowers, just before the petals opened or right after they fell off. This photo was taken in Feb. 2015.

I know where some are, though, and am going to go check on them today or tomorrow. If I’m lucky, I’ll add the pics to this post. And let you know if, indeed, they do smell nice.

Update Feb. 6, 2017: Found some!
Vernal witch hazel blooming on Feb. 6, 2017
Vernal witch hazel blooming on Feb. 6, 2017

Rob and I went out to do a little exploring along the upper Felkins creek and we found some blooming! And YES, they do smell nice. The scent isn’t powerful but it is sweet.

During early spring of 2015 I took cuttings and was having some success with them, but an unusual landslide-producing epic flood wiped out the nursery that summer.

When I do find them, I plan to take some cuttings. If they root, I’ll have some to offer in the Nature Boutique nursery this year.

You can read more about the Ozark Witch Hazel in this article at the Springfield News-Leader.

Witch Hazel in my Fiction

In the first book of the Bounty Hunter series, Treya tries chewing on a witch hazel twig. I’m going to cut a twig tomorrow and see if it’s as nasty as she thinks it is. If it’s not so bad, I’ll have to rewrite this scene.

Update: When we found the flowers blooming, I did taste a twig and it was NOT unpleasant and it did not pucker my mouth. I’ll have to update that passage.

How to Grow Witch Hazel

I’ll try to root some from cuttings from the local populations that grow here. My first attempts at this failed, but I’m going to try again. Here’s an article about the varieties you might be able to find at your local nurseries, along with some witch hazel growing tips.


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Author/Artist Info
________________________________
Madison Woods is a self-taught artist who moved to the Ozarks from south Louisiana in 2005. In 2018 she began experimenting with watercolor painting, using her local pigments. She calls them Paleo Paints, and her artwork features exclusively the lightfast pigments foraged from Madison county, Arkansas. Her inspiration is nature – the beauty, and the inherent cycle of life and death, destruction and regeneration.

Her online portfolio is at www.MadisonWoods.art.

Click here to join her mailing list.

Photo of Madison Woods, artist and Paleo Paint maker, and her social media contact information.
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sustainabilitea
1 February 2017 12:53 pm

Back from Arizona (which was unseasonably cool and rainy during the first part of my trip) into winter. I’d love to see some snow soon, but I’m not sure that will happen. I haven’t talked to my s-i-l since she opened her gift a few days ago, but she was… Read more »

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