Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Witch Hazel in Bloom

I wrote about witch hazel in August, when the leaves were still bright green and the shrub was not yet in bloom. Walk the woodlands today and you will see the pale yellow flower petals sticking out like wild hair along the slender branches. This quirky understory woodland shrub blooms in late fall just as its seed pods from the previous year pop open, shooting their seeds 20 or 30 feet away.

The beautiful scalloped leaves have turned yellow, creating a soft glow beneath a canopy of hardwood trees. The leaves, borne on arching, layered branches, are slightly askew at the base, and with their wavy edges, are unlike any other woodland shrub.

Witch hazel leaves are starting to fall, even as the flowers remain into November. Even when fallen their leaves add color and form to the forest floor, among the granite rock, decaying wood, and curled, brown leaves of trees.

The witch hazel shares the forest understory with other shrubs.....

Maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)
in shades of red with purple berries

Beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta),
a witch hazel look-a-like in its fall yellows,
but for its toothed, not wavy leaf edges

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), toothed, opposite leaves;
note witch hazel in the background

1 comment:

  1. Ellen,

    Thanks for your consoling words and yes, I know David Quammen first, around 10 years ago, he wrote an exceptional (if long) piece for HARPER'S pretty much pointing out those species that would survive no matter what, namely crows and rats and a few others. I happen to love corvids so I'm okay with that, but not with the rest.

    I just happened upon your blog and I look forward to spending more time there. I am a big fan of Black Racers, have witnessed one or two "racing by" and boy, do they book! That was in the Blue Hills here in MA while out with an AMC group. And I know Northern Water Snakes but reading about their individual characteristics was fascinating. As for Hamamelis virginiana, I love your posting. You might like to visit this site: http://www.stevenfoster.com/education/monograph/witchhazel.html

    He has some beautiful photos and a wealth of botanical info. I am a sometime garden writer and big fan of flora. It seems we have the same reverence for the natural world, but it is a difficult thing to stand witness. If John Muir were here he would be horrified, but I think he would rush to help. In our way, we are helping with our blogs. But I wish I could just jump on a jet and really DO something. Where is a magic wand when one needs one?

    We REALLY need one now.