The Good Witch

My Altona Forest

Each November there is a guided hike in Altona Forest – all about recognizing and identifying trees by their bark, buds, and growing patterns. One resident tree we discuss is the native witch hazel. With graceful spreading branches, it has a vase-shape and is attractive – but we’d just missed her late-fall show. I promised myself that I’d go looking for this small tree’s display this year in mid-October, since my timing is off every year!

Witch hazel is commonly known for it’s medicinal qualities as an astringent, treating insect bites, sunburn, blemishes and other skin inflammation, and it’s historical use as a water divining rod.

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However to gardeners and naturalists, witch hazel’s qualities are about it’s spicy scent and it’s blooms… at a time when you’d never expect to see anything blooming. Native witch hazel – sometimes called ‘winterbloom’ – is Hamamelis virginiana. It blooms in fall –…

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