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February 2020: Our plants

Witch hazel

Hamamelis L.
Family (order): Hamamelidaceae (Saxifragales)

Hamamelis × intermedia 'Pallida'

The five species of witch hazel occur in North America, Japan, and temperate regions of China.

Short description
Most species and cultivars of Hamamelis are broad, expansive shrubs. Flowers come in warm hues ranging from yellow to orange to red, and appear early in the year before leaf-out. Four long, narrow, and initially crumpled petals are arranged cross-wise. On warm days, the flowers release a fine perfume. The bark is mostly smooth and light grey to reddish, the latter looking particularly pretty on wet, rainy days. Autumn colour is another good feature of Hamamelis.

Companion plants
All early-flowering bulbs such as winter aconite (Eranthis), snowdrops (Galanthus), snowflakes (Leucojum) and Crocus look good beneath these shrubs.

Although Hamamelis are native to North America and Eastern Asia, which often support plants that prefer acidic soils, witch hazels usually cope well with European soil conditions. At maturity, witch hazels are large shrubs, and more rarely small tress, reaching 5 m height, and therefore, need some space. Be careful when pruning, since many cultivars are propagated onto the inconspicuously flowering, but more vigorous H. virginiana. Witch hazels look best when planted das a solitary shrub.

Aside from being used as an ornamental, extracts of Hamamelis bark are used for skin care and cosmetics products, due to their astringent properties.

Locality at the Botanical Garden

At least six different cultivars can be viewed and compared within the spring garden.

Hamamelis japonica 'Arborea'

Hamamelis mollis 'Orange'

Hamamelis × intermedia 'Carmine Red'

Hamamelis × intermedia 'Diane'

Text and photos: Dr. Tanja M. Schuster, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
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