Monday, March 29, 2010

Hamamelis virginiana

Although witchhazel is an 'official' drug, there seems to be little agreement on it uses or efficacy. According to my book, written about 25 years ago, there are approximately a million gallons of witch-hazel produced every year in the U.S.
This is a native American plant which grows in moist, light woods everywhere except the far west. It is a large shrub/small tree that gets to be about 15 feet tall. This is a fall blooming plant, unlike the other witchhazels we grow that bloom in late winter or early spring. Just when everything else is finishing up for the season, Hamamelis virginiana is just getting started.
To use it, a tea is made from the leaves or bark. It is very astringent, which is probably why my mother swore by it for all sorts of bumps and bruises when we were little. It is also supposed to be good for getting rid of the itch in insect bites. I always found it very cool and soothing, but mostly I just love the scent - a very pleasant memory from childhood.
We have several of these growing in the gardens and they are definitely carefree. Once planted, they just sort of take care of themselves. Other than making sure they get enough water the first year, you won't have to do much. We have never had problems with insects of other pests. Flower color is almost exclusively yellow one these, unlike the spring blooming kinds.
I've not gotten in too much gardening over the past few days what with the cold and rain, but tomorrow promises to be sunny, so I hope I can spend the whole day just playing in the dirt.

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