American Witch Hazel
Scientific name: Hamamelis virginiana
Known as common or American witch-hazel, this species of witch-hazel is native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to Minnesota, and south to central Florida to eastern Texas.
Lettuce-green, deciduous leaves maintain a rich consistency into fall when they turn brilliant gold. The bark is smooth and gray.
The ½” long capsule can take one year to mature. The seeds are expelled explosively from the capsules in the fall, sometimes as far as 30 feet.
The floral display of witch hazel is unique. Its fragrant, yellow flowers with strap-like, crumpled petals appear in October and November, persisting for some time after leaf drop. They have a light, spicy fragrance.
Did You Know?
The aromatic extract of leaves, twigs, and bark is used in mildly astringent lotions and toilet water. A myth of witchcraft held that a forked branch of witch hazel (known as a divining rod) could be used to locate underground water.
More on Trees and Shrubs in Lewisboro
Lewisboro was once entirely forested except for patches of open field caused by fire and wetlands and ponds which were expanded by beaver dams. Although it is hard to believe, by 1800 most of Lewisboro’s forests had been cut down and replaced by farms. In 1820 so many trees had been cleared that there was no shade anywhere along the route from Boston to New York. But by the mid-1800’s farming here became uneconomical and as farms were abandoned, the forests began to re-grow. Today, 70% of New York is once again forest, what some call ‘the great environmental story of the United States’. These new forests provide us with beauty and recreation, clean air and water, flood control, erosion prevention, carbon sequestration, cooler temperatures and habitat for other plants, insects, birds and other wildlife.
 An Explosion of Green. B. Mckibben. Atlantic Monthly 275 (April 1995): 61-83.