This deciduous shrub was first found in 2004 in coastal Mississippi where it was growing under a canopy of pine and mixed deciduous hardwoods in shallow flat-bottomed ravines and on adjacent low slopes that drain into the headwater tributary of Garraway Creek. It is a member of the witch hazel family, Hamamelidaceae, that also includes loropetalum, fothergill, and winter hazel. The plants were growing in colonies that had a few individuals 4-8′ tall with the majority only 1-2′. Unlike the other two species of witch hazel, this species has short shallow rhizomes. It also has leaves that are 2-3 times larger than other species. The oval leaves are 4.7-9.5″ long, and have toothed margins and dense fine white hairs on the undersides. From December to February, clusters of fragrant flowers appear. Each flower has a scarlet calyx and 4 ribbon-like crinkled petals that may be maroon, orange, scarlet, rose or red with yellow tips. Colonies are characterized by having one dominant form of scarlet, rose-pink, wine red, or maroon while a few bushes in the colony show yellow with bicolored petals. The fruit is a woody, 2 celled dry capsule that explosively discharges its two glossy black seeds when it splits open. Big-Leaf witch hazel is rare and difficult to find in nurseries but would be a good choice for winter, fragrance, woodland, shade, and native plant gardens. The genus name, Hamamelis, comes from the Greek words ᾰ̔́μᾰ (háma),  meaning simultaneously, and μῆλον (mēlon) meaning fruit, and refers to the fact that the some species flower while the previous year’s fruit ripen. The specific epithet, ovalis, is the modern Latin word meaning of or pertaining to an egg.

Type: Flowering deciduous shrub

Outstanding Feature: Flowers

Form: Erect

Growth Rate: Moderate (?)

Bloom: Clusters of 4 petaled flowers in shades of red, in winter

Size: 1-8′ H

Light: Partial shade

Soil: Average, consistently moist, well-drained, acidic

Hardiness: Zones 7-9

Care: Remove suckers to prevent spread; prune after flowering to maintain shape and/or size

Pests and Diseases: Generally healthy

Propagation: Seed

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

By Karen