Updated: Feb 16
Witch Hazels are versatile plants, a must for Mid-Atlantic landscapes, offering stunning choices between native and exotic hybrids with plenty color choices. For deciduous forests, Hamamelis suites as a beautiful choice, for it has unique vase like shape, pretty fall leaf color and, interesting fall-late winter blooming flowers that might be a delight to our eyes, but a much-needed treat to the pollinators who otherwise have fewer nectar choices in late winter.
Hamamelis commonly called 'Witch Hazel' is a genus belonging to Family Hamamelidaceae. The common and Latin name origin is interesting. "The great botanist Linnaeus saw leaves, flowers, and the prior year's fruit all at once on a single native witch hazel, thus choosing "hama" ("at the same time") and "melon" (apple or fruit) for its name." Source: https://www.chicagobotanic.org/.../which_witch_hazel...
The common name on the other hand also has a unique story. "American witchhazel possesses some interesting lore and uses. The most interesting use as been the use of forked limbs as dowsing rods. Early European settles observed Native Americans using American witchhazel to find underground sources of water. This activity is probably where the common name witchhazel came from. 'Wicke' is the Middle English for 'lively’ and 'wych' is from the Anglo-Saxon word for 'bend.'” Source: https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/hamamelis_virginiana.shtml
Blooming currently at London Town you will see bright yellow Hamamelis x intermedia varieties 'Bramsted Gold' and 'Sunburst'. Both have bright yellow frills, but sunburst has a mix of lime yellow, making it visible from quite a distance, especially in a bare deciduous woodland.
Intermedia hybrids are fragrant and come in a variety. Here is a good link from American Horticulture Society for more info. on both hybrid and native species: https://ahsgardening.org/wp-content/pdfs/2012-11r.pdf
"When the days grow short and little else is flowering, the strap-like petals and strong fragrance of witch-hazel flowers draw pollinators like owlet moths, and potentially gnats and late-season bees scavenging for food. At the start of the year, Ozark witch-hazel (Hamamelis vernalis, Zone 4–8) is one of the first blooms to greet pollinators." Source: https://arboretum.harvard.edu/.../shrubs-and-the.../
Native or exotic, Hamamelis has stunning choices for bare deciduous Mid-Atlantic landscapes. Once you start exploring the varieties of the native species and exotic hybrids, the question will be 'wych' hazel would you choose for your landscape? I vote for Ozark Witch Hazel, H. vernalis and H. x intermedia 'sunburst'!