Chances are if you've spent time outside this winter you've seen this bright plant showing off it's brilliant yellow flowers. The Common Witchhazel is native to Eastern and Central United States and is hardy to zone 4. It exists in the understory of deciduous forests and can reach up to 30' but in most cases only reaches about 15'. Generally it is the last woody plant to flower in the season and the bright flowers can start appearing as early as October. They thrive in full sun locations but will also tolerate partial shade as it is an understory plant of deciduous forests.
In the landscape it has many uses. It can be used in partially shady areas in the back of a garden to bring some color during the winter or as a hedge or woodland border. Because it prefers moist soils, it can also be used in rain gardens. It is important that the soil is also well drained so the plant does not suffocate. The Witchhazel is a traditional herb of the North American Indians who used it to treat wounds, tumors and eye problems through infusions and tinctures. It is VERY important to note that it should not be used long term because of a cancer risk and should not be used during pregnancy. Ingestion of 1g can cause nausea and vomiting. Needless to say, we don't recommend trying it, but it's fun to know!
- Jon K.