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Hamamelis virginiana - L.

Common Name Witch Hazel, American witchhazel, Common Witchhazel, Virginian Witchhazel, Witchhazel
Family Hamamelidaceae
USDA hardiness 3-8
Known Hazards Avoid long-term use due to cancer risk (from high tannin content). Avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 1g ingested can cause vomiting, nausea, impaction. Topical use may cause dermatitis [301].
Habitats Edges of dry or moist woods, in rich soil and on the rocky banks of streams[43, 82]. The best specimens are found in deep rich soils[229].
Range Eastern N. America - Nova Scotia to Wisconsin and south to Texas and N. Florida.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (5 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel, American witchhazel, Common Witchhazel, Virginian Witchhazel, Witchhazel

Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel, American witchhazel, Common Witchhazel, Virginian Witchhazel, Witchhazel


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Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Early winter, Late fall, Late winter, Mid fall, Mid winter. Form: Rounded, Vase.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Hamamelis virginiana is a deciduous Shrub growing to 5 m (16ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5. It is in flower from September to November, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Hamamelis androgyna Walter. Hamamelis corylifolia Moench. Trilopus nigra Raf.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses: Tea

Seed - raw or cooked[232]. An oily texture[4, 102, 177, 213]. The seeds are about the size of a barley grain and have a thick bony coat[2]. The reports of edibility must be treated with some suspicion, they all seem to stem from one questionable report in the 'Medical Flora' of Refinesque[2]. A refreshing tea is made from the leaves and twigs[102, 105, 177, 257].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antidiarrhoeal  Astringent  Dysentery  Haemostatic  Homeopathy  Miscellany  Sedative  Tonic

Witch hazel bark is a traditional herb of the North American Indians who used it to heal wounds, treat tumours, eye problems etc[254]. A very astringent herb, it is commonly used in the West and is widely available from both herbalists and chemists[222]. It is an important ingredient of proprietary eye drops, skin creams, ointments and skin tonics[238]. It is widely used as an external application to bruises, sore muscles, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, sore nipples, inflammations etc[238]. The bark is astringent, haemostatic, sedative and tonic[4, 14, 21, 165, 171, 222]. Tannins in the bark are believed to be responsible for its astringent and haemostatic properties[222]. Bottled witch hazel water is a steam distillate that does not contain the tannins from the shrub[222], this is less effective in its action than a tincture[238]. The bark is used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, colitis, dysentery, haemorrhoids, vaginal discharge, excessive menstruation, internal bleeding and prolapsed organs[238]. Branches and twigs are harvested for the bark in the spring[238]. An infusion of the leaves is used to reduce inflammations, treat piles, internal haemorrhages and eye inflammations[213]. The leaves are harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use[238]. A homeopathic remedy is made from fresh bark[232]. It is used in the treatment of nosebleeds, piles and varicose veins[232].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Cosmetic  Miscellany  Rootstock  Tannin  Wood

Used as a rootstock for the ornamental species in this genus[182]. The plant is very rich in tannin[7]. It is used cosmetically as an ingredient in almost any preparation made to relieve capillary weaknesses[7]. The stems have been used for water divining[257]. Wood - heavy, hard, very close grained[82]. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot[235]. The trees are too small to be a useful lumber source[229].

Special Uses

Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Border, Pest tolerant, Specimen, Woodland garden. Prefers a moist sandy loam[14, 130] in a sunny position[1], though it tolerates some shade[14]. Prefers a rich well-drained soil[1]. Dislikes dry limy soils but will succeed in a calcareous soil if it is moist[130]. Prefers a position sheltered from cold drying winds in a neutral to slightly acid soil[200]. A very hardy plant tolerating temperatures down to about -35°c[184]. Plants seldom produce seeds in Britain[4]. Witch hazel is a widely used medicinal herb. The bark is harvested commercially from the wild in N. America[61]. The twigs have been used in the past as dowsing rods for water divining[229]. A slow growing shrub, it takes about 6 years to flower from seed[200]. The flowers have a soft sweet perfume[245]. This species is notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]. Special Features: North American native, Attracts butterflies, Fragrant flowers, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - this can be very slow to germinate. It is best to harvest the seed 'green' (as soon as it is mature but before it has dried on the plant) around the end of August and sow it immediately in a cold frame[80, 98]. It may still take 18 months to germinate[200] but will normally be quicker than stored seed which will require 2 months warm stratification then 1 month cold followed by another 2 weeks warm and then a further 4 months cold stratification[113]. Scarification may also improve germination of stored seed[80]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Overwinter them in a greenhouse for their first winter and plant out in late spring[78]. Layering in early spring or autumn[78, 200]. Takes 12 months. Good percentage[78]. Softwood cuttings, summer in a frame[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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