Posted On: February 11, 2016

Flora Feature: Witch-Hazels

Witch-hazels or Hamamelis are a genera of shrubby plants native to North America, China, and Japan. The genus name, Hamamelis, means “together with fruit,” referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year. Species native to North America bloom from September -November while other species bloom from January – March, making Witch-hazels an important plant for winter interest in the dreary months of gardening. These plants also have excellent clear yellow to red fall color, providing much needed contrast in a city of brown London Plane leaves.

Flowers come in red, yellow, orange, and pinks. Many are fragrant. The leaves and bark of the North American Witch-hazel Hamamelis virginiana may be used to produce an astringent, also referred to as witch hazel, and is used medicinally. This plant extract was widely used for medicinal purposes by American Indians and continues to be an ingredient in a variety of commercial healthcare products.

This fall, our garden staff planted twelve new varieties of Witch-hazel in the Park, adding to the six existing varieties that are already present in the Park. The newly planted Witch-hazels may be small now, but they are the beginning of what will be a robust collection of Witch-Hazel in Madison Square Park.