When I spotted the yellow from a distance, I thought perhaps it was early leaves budding out, on closer inspection it was a bunch of little flowers. I thought this shrub was a cultivated ornamental because of its location on a side trail in an old established neighborhood. I looked it up and came to the genus Hamamelis, commonly known as witch-hazel. Before distinguishing what species of Hamamelis I had stumbled upon, I found that there is a native species of witch-hazel in Onondaga County, Hamamelis virginiana. I wanted this yellow flowered delight of my walk to be the native species. I’m a native plant advocate at heart, always trying to find beauty in our giant backyard that is the United States. I love getting to know stunning native plants that can seamlessly transition into a well-kept garden. It came as a disappointment that this couldn’t possibly be H. virginiana as it blooms in the fall not late winter. This native has flowers of yellow, rarely red, like the one I saw today.
Another native witch-hazel can be found in the Ozarks, with an easy to remember name H. vernalis, telling of its spring time bloom. Its flowers are a mix of red and yellow, so the shrub I found could be a variety of this. Another species newly discovered in 2009 as a native Mississippian, H. ovalis,which has solid red flowers. All of the native species can be found at specialty nursery retailers along with some fancy varieties.
There are two non-native species, H. mollis and H. japonica. Most cultivated varieties have been chosen from these or a hybrid of the two. There are many options in the varieties and they are easier to find in nurseries than the natives. Most likely, the flowers I found today are related to these two species.
The real benefit of stumbling upon this early bloomer is that it opened my eyes to the three native species we have. There are many under-utilized native plants that could benefit the avid gardener. Since they are native they are likely adapted to the climate, requiring minimal maintenance. Native plants have been hanging out with all of the native microflora for sometime, and they get each other. So why don’t we get it? It just makes sense, plant native Hamamelis this year!
All of the photos are of the shrub I saw on my walk, an unknown species and variety of Hamamelis.