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December/January Wildflower Spotlight: 

Witchhazel is native to parts of North America. The first member to come to prominence in the garden is the variety Hamamelis virginiana, discovered growing wild in Eastern woodlands in the early 1700's. Brought to England 1736, it was immediately prized, not for its flowers, which are rather small, but for its season of bloom--it is the very last plant to flower in the garden, often opening as late as December.

Native Americans considered witchhazel an important medicinal plant. The bark was used to treat skin ulcers, sores and tumors. Boiled or steamed twigs were used to loosen and soothe sore muscles. Witchhazel tea was taken to stop internal bleeding and to treat dysentery, colds and coughs.  Today the distilled oil is an ingredient in herbal products such as extracts, lotions and salves for pain relief, skin care and hemorrhoid treatment. 

Witchhazel prefers sun, but tolerates shade. The plant has shallow roots and does not like drought. Witchhazel is a useful species for shrub borders, forest edge plantings, wildlife habitat enhancement projects and naturalistic landscaping. The nutty seeds taste sort of like pistachios and were enjoyed by native Americans. By far its most outstanding characteristic is its habit of flowering in the winter when other blooms are scarce. 

Previous Spotlights:
     - OctoberClosed Gentian
     - SeptemberGoldenrod
     - AugustJoe Pye Weed
     - July:   Cardinal Flower
     - JuneRosebay Rhododendron