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Witch-hazel (Hamamelis, )) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Hamamelidaceae, with two species in North America (H. virginiana and H. vernalis), and one each in Japanmarker (H. japonica) and Chinamarker (H. mollis).


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".


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.

Garden shrubs

Numerous cultivars have been selected for use as garden shrubs, many of them derived from the hybrid H. × intermedia Rehder (H. japonica × H. mollis).

Medicinal uses

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 helps to shrink and contract blood vessels back to normal size, hence its use as 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. It is also used in treating acne.

Food uses

Hamamelis species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Feathered Thorn.


Image:Hamamelis_flowers.jpg|Hamamelis sp. flowers, Menai Bridgemarker, Walesmarker.Image:Hamamelis Flower.jpg|Hamamelis in Fürth City Park (Germany), 2004-02-08.Image:Colonial Park Arboretum and Gardens - Hamamelis.jpg|Flowering Hamamelis in the Colonial Park Arboretum and Gardensmarker.Image:Hamamelis Japonica x Mollis.JPG|Hamamelis × intermedia (H. japonica × H. mollis)Image:Hamamelis japonica0.jpg|H. japonicaImage:Hamamelis molis JPG1Aa.jpg|H. mollis tree in autumnImage:Hamamelis molis JPG1Fua.jpg|H. mollis in autumnImage:Hamamelis molis JPG1Fub.jpg|H. mollis leaves in autumn


  1. Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. Dickinson's Witch Hazel


  1. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan.

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