An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide – maryholland505@gmail.com

Witch Hazel Flowering & Dispersing Seeds

Long after most bird songs have ceased, summer’s flowers have turned to seed, and leaves are starting to fall, a woodland shrub, Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, brightens the landscape with its tiny, golden blossoms.  At this exact same time, Witch Hazel flowers that were pollinated a year ago and fertilized this past spring have developed capsules that are dispersing two black seeds, shooting them up to thirty feet away from the parent plant, making audible popping sounds as they open and eject the seeds.  This dual-purpose timing of both flowering and seed dispersal is a feast for both eyes and ears every autumn for those fortunate enough to locate a shrub and time their visit perfectly.

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5 responses

  1. Alice

    The flowers are so pretty and unique & the ‘umbrella’ tree shape is so easy to recognize, often many trees in one area, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the seeds popping.

    October 8, 2021 at 8:50 am

  2. Bill on the Hill...

    Yes Mary… To be in the woods, enjoying the quiet all around you & to hear these sounds & then to go on the hunt to find the source would indeed be a most pleasant experience…
    I’m currently spending time out in the field doing some woodland photography, no ” pops ” just yet!
    Bill… :~)

    October 8, 2021 at 9:35 am

  3. Wonderful, Mary! Like all of nature. I wonder what is the mechanism for the popping? I love these seed dispersal strategies of plants.

    October 8, 2021 at 10:10 am

  4. Susan Axe-Bronk

    When my kids were young, I brought a witch hazel capsule into the house. The kids were delighted to find that the capsule had popped overnight and sent the seeds clear across the living room!

    October 10, 2021 at 10:57 pm

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