Not much is blooming now. About the only thing left putting on a show is the last of the late summer asters, with their lovely, soft lavender, diminutive petals. Tiny petals adding a comforting accent to the brilliant fall colors.
The last floral display of the year is the one I’ve been waiting for since spring. This is the opening of the Witch Hazel flowers! The flowers are a soft yellow. Four strappy petals to each flower. Petals like lemon zest. Not demanding attention but instead quietly announcing the middle of autumn and for me a warning of, “Winter is just around the corner!” A warning that I delight in!
After the Witch Hazel flower is pollinated by a moth, during the following many months the flower will become a seed pod, sueded, buff colored, waiting for the floral display of the next autumn. It is in autumn that these seed pods eject their two shiny black seeds, sending them some 10 to 20 feet away. These seeds will take another whole year to germinate.
The Witch Hazel is a small tree or shrub growing in a multi-stemmed clump, reaching for the sky, but being deep in the forest, does not find the sky and the branches arch again toward the ground, creating a wide cluster of stems. The tree at best reaches about 12 to 15 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide.
Green Of Summer
The leaves of the Witch Hazel have wavy edges with the upper side having a dark emerald color and the under side having a lighter green color.
What Is In A Name
I have seen several thoughts on how the Witch Hazel got its name. One has to do with the leaf gall one often sees on the leaves of the tree. These galls are caused by the Witch Hazel Leaf Gall Aphid and do indeed look a bit like a witch’s hat! Another story links the timing of the flowering of the tree with Halloween. And still another story is of a historical nature. The branches of the Witch Hazel have been used by Native Americans and in turn by European settlers as divining rods to help them find underground sources for water. The word “wych” is an Anglo-Saxon word for “bend” which is what the branch was said to do when water was detected.
If the Witch Hazel flowers are indeed saying, “Winter is just around the corner!” I say, “Bring it on!!”