As one of the only native plants that blooms in late fall and early winter, American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) can be found stealing the forest spotlight right now.
While most of our native bloomers turn in for a long winter’s nap, the streamer-like flowers of this plant are just starting to appear, following the annual loss of the shrub’s leaves. These highly-fragrant yellow blooms typically last into December.
The seeds and buds of this deciduous shrub are a favorite winter food for grouse and are also browsed by deer and beaver. Witch-hazel is also known to attract a variety of pollinating insects. The plant is shade-tolerant and prefers moist sites with well-drained soils. In the wild, it often grows as an understory species.
Looking to add witch-hazel to your backyard blooms? Keep an eye out for this species in the DEC Saratoga Tree Nursery’s annual spring sale, coming in January. You can read more about this native species online.
Photo of the flowers of the American witch-hazel plant by Judy Gallagher.