The Last Flowers of Fall

I was out admiring some beautiful ice formations yesterday when I spotted a real treasure, a shrub flowering in December!

American witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is unique that way. While other plants hunker down for winter, American witchhazel puts out flowers in October-November. Seeing it still hanging on in December sure lifts my spirits!

American witchhazel is native to New England. The flowers are insect-pollinated. Online references I found variously listed moths, gnats, and bees. Pollination occurs in fall, but fertilization doesn’t happen until spring. The fruit develops through the normal growing season and releases its seeds in the fall as the plant puts out the next round of flowers.

In a few months, keep an eye out for its relative, vernal witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis). The flowers are very similar. Vernal witchhazel not native to New England, but it’s planted here sometimes as an ornamental.