Also called American witch hazel and beadwood, this deciduous shrub or small tree is native to  woodland margins and stream banks of eastern North America from from Canada to Mexico and as far west as Minnesota and eastern Texas. It is a member of the witch hazel family, Hamamelidaceae, that also includes lorpetalum, fothergill, and winter hazel. The plant usually reaches about 15′ tall and has smooth gray bark and irregular branching habit. The oval to obovate leaves are up to 6″ long, have dentate to wavy margins, and are light to dark green before turning an attractive golden-yellow in the fall. Clusters of fragrant yellow flowers appear in the leaf axils from late fall to early winter, sometimes while the leaves are still on the plant. The flowers have four crinkly ribbon-like petals and give way to green seed capsules that mature to light brown and become woody. Each capsule is 2-valved and contains 2 shiny black seeds that are attractive to birds including wild turkey. Common witch hazel also provides food for small mammals and deer. Traditionally, common witch hazel has been used medicinally and is still used as an astringent. In addition, forked twigs of the plant have been used as divining rods. Common witch hazel is a good choice for a shrub border or specimen as well as for use in woodland, fragrance, winter, native plant, medicinal, bird, and wildlife 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 plant flowers while the previous year’s fruit ripen. The specific epithet, virginiana, refers to the area in North America where the plant is found.

Type: Flowering deciduous shrub or small tree

Outstanding Feature: Flowers, fall coloration

Form: Erect, spreading

Growth Rate: Moderate

Bloom: Cluster of fragrant yellow flowers with 4 crinkled ribbon-like petals in late fall into winter

Size: 15-20′ H( 30′ in native habitat) x 15-20′ W

Light: Full sun to partial shade; best bloom in full sun

Soil: Average consistently moist, well-drained, acidic

Hardiness: Zones 3-9

Care: Prune after flowering in spring if necessary to maintain shape and size; remove suckers to prevent spread.

Pests and Diseases: Generally healthy but may suffer damage from insect galls, leaf gall aphids, Japanese beetles, caterpillars, weevils, scale, leafroller, leafminer, powdery mildew, leaf spots, rots.

Propagation: Seed, layering in the fall

Outstanding Selections:

‘Little Suzie’ (4-5′ tall, compact)

‘Peggy Clarke’

Photo Credit Wikipedia

By Karen