Vernal Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis)

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Often considered a shrub, it is actually a small tree, usually multi-stemmed and growing 10-15 feet high and almost as wide.  It makes a good screen or unpruned hedge.

The bark is an attractive gray to grayish brown color.  The leaves are dark green in summer and usually a brilliant yellow in the fall.  It’s yellow to reddish flowers are its main attribute, mainly because it is one of the only trees in flower in February to early March.

It has few disease or insect pests and none are serious.  Indians and settlers used Witch Hazel to make “water diviners” from their forked sticks.  They also used a boiled down leaf concentrate to sooth bruises and insect bites.

There is also another native, the common witch hazel, and the imported Chinese witch hazel.  They are all very similar in size and appearance, but depending on their variety they can flower from November through March and come in many shades of yellow, orange, and red.  They make a great accent against the snowy landscape, and also have a very sweet fragrance if you are adventurous enough to be in the garden in the winter months.

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