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 October Flora Spotlight:
Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel 
Hamamelis virginiana

Witch Hazel is great way to extend the beauty of your garden beyond summer. The fall blooming shrub has clusters of yellow or orange ribbony flowers that bloom through winter, providing both texture and color in the bleak winter garden. Though in thrives in sunny spots, witch hazel does just as well in woodland gardens. It’s native to woodlands in the Eastern US - another great reason to plant it. The nutty seeds taste like pistachios and were enjoyed by Native Americans. The fully mature shrub reaches between 15 – 20 feet in height with a spread of 12 -15 feet.

The name Witch has its origins in Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning “pliant” or “bendable”. Hazel is derived from the use of twigs for dividing rods, just as hazel twigs were used in England.

The earliest works on American medicinal plants included which hazel, primarily noting its use to treat eye inflammations, hemorrhoids, bites, stings and skin sores, diarrhea and dysentery and many other conditions for which a plant high in tannins would produce relief by virtue of its astringency. Herbalists consider it one of the best plant medicines to check bleeding. A tea made from the bark or leaves is given to stop internal bleeding. A poultice of fresh leaves or bark was considered useful for relieving pain and swelling of inflammations. Dipped in a cotton ball, which hazel water is dabbed on insect bites to calm pain and relieve itching. It is especially soothing on chigger and tick bites, as well as mosquito bites and poison ivy.

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