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Witch Hazel Flowering and Dispersing Last Year’s Seeds

10-11-13  witch hazel flower and fruits 055Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is nature’s final fanfare of the fall. As colorful fall foliage disappears, the yellow strap-like petals of Witch Hazel’s fragrant flowers brighten denuded woods. These flowers are pollinated by moths that are still active this late in the season, and develop into small, hard capsules that remain dormant throughout the winter. During the following summer, these capsules develop to the point where they expel two shiny black seeds 10 to 20 feet away from the tree. The seeds take another year to germinate, making the length of time from flowering to germination approximately two years. (In photo, the yellowish-tan capsules were formed this summer, and the one brown, year-old capsule has opened and dispersed its seeds.)

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6 responses

  1. Kathie Fiveash

    Do you know the mechanism for such a forceful expulsion of the seeds? That is amazing in such a hard and longstanding pod.

    October 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    • This type of splitting of the fruit of a plant or tree and the subsequent releasing of its contents/seeds is called dehiscence. It can be caused by the fruit becoming wet, or, in the case of Witch Hazel, drying out.

      October 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

  2. As a former dendrology teacher, I can really appreciate an informative, quality post like this one. I have been planning a native shrubs post and will have a Witch Hazel shot in there that you’ll enjoy. Great job!

    October 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    • Thanks so much, Nick. Looking forward to seeing a Witch Hazel seed in midair!

      October 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

  3. Jason Berard

    Witch hazel flowers always remind me of lemon zest!

    October 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm

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