Hamamelis virginiana; Hamamelidaceae (witch hazel family)
Witch hazel is a large shrub or small tree that grows in the understory of hardwood forests in eastern North America. It’s one of the last – maybe the last – plants to bloom in this area. The flowers can persist through early winter, long after the leaves have fallen, and have an unusual odor that I find hard to describe. It makes me think of my grandfather.
I know witch hazel is in the Potomac gorge area, but I took these pictures on the Riprap Hollow trail in southern Shenandoah National Park a few days ago. I would like to have taken pictures of a whole tree, but the nature of the trail, and a gusty wind as a cold front started moving in, made that impossible.