To use all functions of this page, please activate cookies in your browser.
With an accout for my.chemeurope.com you can always see everything at a glance – and you can configure your own website and individual newsletter.
- My watch list
- My saved searches
- My saved topics
- My newsletter
Witch-hazel (Hamamelis) is a genus of four species of flowering plants in the family Hamamelidaceae, with two species in North America (H. virginiana and H. vernalis), and one each in Japan (H. japonica) and China (H. mollis).
Additional recommended knowledge
They are deciduous shrubs or (rarely) small trees growing to 3-8 m tall, rarely to 12 m tall. The leaves are alternately arranged, oval, 4-16 cm long and 3-11 cm broad, with a smooth or wavy margin. The horticultural name means "together with fruit"; its fruit, flowers, and next year's leaf buds all appear on the branch simultaneously, a rarity among trees.  The flowers are sometimes produced on the leafless stems in winter, thus one alternative name for the plant, "Winterbloom".  Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals 1-2 cm long, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule 1 cm long, containing a single 5 mm glossy black seed in each of the two parts; the capsule splits explosively at maturity in the autumn about 8 months after flowering, ejecting the seeds with sufficient force to fly for distances of up to 10 m, thus another alternative name "Snapping Hazel". 
Hamamelis species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Feathered Thorn.
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 the twigs as divining rods, just as hazel twigs were used in England.
The Persian Ironwood, a closely related tree formerly treated as Hamamelis persica, is now given a genus of its own, as Parrotia persica, as it differs in the flowers not having petals. Other closely allied genera are Parrotiopsis, Fothergilla and Sycopsis (see under Hamamelidaceae). Witch-hazels are not closely related to the hazels.
Cultivation and uses
They are popular ornamental plants, grown for their clusters of rich yellow to orange-red flowers which begin to expand in the autumn as or slightly before the leaves fall, and continue throughout the winter. Numerous cultivars have been selected for use as garden shrubs, many of them derived from the hybrid H. × intermedia Rehder (H. japonica × H. mollis).
The bark and leaves are astringent; the extract, also referred to as witch hazel, is used medicinally. Extracts from its bark and leaves are used in aftershave lotions and lotions for treating bruises and insect bites. Witch-hazel is the active ingredient in many hemorrhoid medications. It is also a common treatment for postpartum tearing of the perineum. The seeds contain a quantity of oil and are edible.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Witch-hazel". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|