Field Notes

Witch hazel Blooms

November 2, 2022

The Halloween (and Kate fall) season is in full swing with spooky carved pumpkins decorating the stoop and tiny ghosts and goblins running through neighborhoods. But out in the woods, there is a witch lurking…

To be clear, it’s a kind and friendly witch called witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)! This unique native shrub/small tree of Michigan has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. In fact, its well-known healing powers may have led some to believe it also has mystical properties that help ward off evil and mend broken hearts.

Witch hazel flowers are subtly beautiful with delicate crinkled, golden petals. The flowers can be easy to miss, but since they bloom in very late fall and can persist into the winter, they are a welcome dash of color as leaves drop and the forests lose their color.

Witch hazel grows at many of our nature preserves, but it’s not common and is slow-growing (it can take 6 years to reach its flowering stage!), so we ask that you enjoy them by taking only pictures. Whether you see these woodland friends or not, it’s nice to know they might be helping ward off evil spirits!

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