A genus of four species of woody shrubs, two from North America and two
all flowering in the winter/early spring except for Hamamelis virginiana
L. which flowers in the autumn.
The first to be discovered was the American Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana,
this is the plant from which is distilled an
extract, quite widely used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. The
other species from North America is the Ozark
Witch Hazel, Hamamelis vernalis. From Asia come both the Japanese Witch
Hazel, Hamamelis japonica and the Chinese
Witch Hazel, Hamamelis mollis. In cultivation, hybrids have arisen, notably
between the Japanese and Chinese Witch Hazels,
these are designated as Hamamelis x intermedia and many of them have been
given cultivar names.
Apart from H. virginiana which flowers
in October and November, they all flower in the winter, between December
March, unaffected by frost. Individual
plants have a flowering period of four to six weeks, depending how cold
the weather is.
They are medium sized to large woody shrubs, usually multi-stemmed. The
flowers consist of four strap shaped petals,
giving them a spidery look. With many flowers clustered along the branches,
they provide welcome colour in the drab winter
months. Flower colour, particularly in the hybrids can range from pale
yellow, through to red and many of them have good
scent, from sweet to spicy. An added bonus in many cultivars is the autumn
colour of the foliage, which can range from yellow
through to orange and red.