Flower of the Day: Witch Hazel

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.

While researching I tripped across this great article in The Atlantic.   And another interesting article in the New York Times._DSC0160