Tree Following: the Witch Hazel Detective

April15.a 07-04-2015 16-36-51The young witch hazel Hamamelis vernalis ‘Amethyst’ that I am following for Lucy’s meme looks little different from a month ago, although the difficulty of getting such a twiggy thing in focus doesn’t help in making comparisons. The flowers are definitely all over now and the leaves are enlarging ready to open in due course. A closer view of one of the side stems show what is left of the flower heads, each flower having been made up of three little blossoms, something I hadn’t noticed before I began the monthly observation. Seed heads have formed on some of my other witch hazels in the past, so I shall be watching out for this possibility with ‘Amethyst’, although I guess it depends very much on how many pollinating insects there are around when witch hazels are in flower.

April15.b 07-04-2015 16-37-09Another observation thrown up by monthly sleuthing is shown clearly on H ‘Zuccariniana’, the only witch hazel that didn’t really flower this year – three flowers are all there was, but at least it is alive and very much kicking, with leaves further developed than any other deciduous tree in the garden, perhaps because in the absence of flowers it was able to divert its resources into the leaves instead? Inspecting it frequently to see if more flowers were going to appear and comparing it to the newer varieties I have which have flowers very close to the main steam, I have worked out that the tiny knobbly bits on the side stems are where there has been a flower in the past – and that later flowers are at the end of the side stems which gradually increase in length. So Amethyst, with no knobbly bits, is a very young tree (and I know for a fact it was dug from the field at Bluebell Nurseries while I waited) perhaps only a couple of years old, whereas Zuccariniana with about 15 knobbly bits is going to be at least 15 years old – and indeed I bought it in 2003 when it will have been a mere youngster.

April15.c 07-04-2015 16-03-15 07-04-2015 16-03-15.d 07-04-2015 16-03-15April15.d 07-04-2015 16-37-37Not rocket science, but something I might not have noticed if it wasn’t for this monthly meme, so thanks to Lucy for hosting it. Do have a look at her blog to see links to the trees other people are following. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of an unexpected flower on a tiny Chinese witch hazel I have, Loropetalum chinense rubrum ‘Blush’, only distantly related to Hamamelis but with a very similar flower.

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18 Responses to Tree Following: the Witch Hazel Detective

  1. I didn’t know about this meme. Thanks for posting, and I found a few good blogs to follow. Much appreciated!

  2. I love “detective work” 🙂 … whether it’s genealogy, jewelry, or plants. Good catch there!

  3. Cathy says:

    The Chinese one has such a pretty name as well as a pretty flower. Interesting to have several Hamamelis to compare, Cathy.

    • Cathy says:

      And yet I probably didn’t make a point of comparing them before in much the same way – there are all sorts of things I didn’t notice before

  4. Lea says:

    I didn’t know they came in other colors – the only witch hazel I knew about has yellow blooms. Very interesting!

    • Cathy says:

      The US natives are generally yellow I believe, but I have named red and various shades of orange ones too, and Amethyst is (not surprisingly) purple!

  5. Amy says:

    That’s a fascinating way to estimate the age of the tree, Cathy! And of course, if you didn’t have several of them, you wouldn’t be able to test it… which shows how nice it is to follow a tree AND have a fine collection of witch hazels… 😉

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, I was pleased to be able to conform ion my own mind how long I think I had had that one. I am very fond of my witch hazels- they may be expensive but they have such a long season of interest

  6. Pauline says:

    Your Chinese tree has such pretty flowers and what a lovely colour.
    You have started me thinking about how hazels are pollinated, The wild sort that grows in the hedges has male catkins and tiny little red spidery female flowers and they are wind pollinated. But then, if the witch hazels were wind pollinated, why would they need to be perfumed? Hmm..I wonder, something for us to look into!

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks for triggering that thought, Pauline – I have done a bit of Googling and have found out some fascinating facts about the seeds but not yet the answer to your question. I will see what I can find by the next tree post

  7. Cathy the last photo of the flower is lovely, it is interesting learning more about our trees by keeping these monthly records, the knobbly bits I gather can be used to know the age of a witch hazel, your little tree is developing nicely, Frances

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Frances – it is still very little though, and I know how long my oldest ones have taken to get where they are!

  8. I also have a heard time photographing the little twig trees I have here…and I hope my Witch Hazel will flower this year…loved seeing yours Cathy!

  9. The flowers may be few but they’re quite interesting.Great work in discovering how to determine the age of your tree. Somewhat like tree rings, I suppose. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Chloris says:

    Well how observant of you, I never knew that about the knobbly bits on Hamamelis. How appropriate as Witch Hazel is used for varicose vein treatment.

    • Cathy says:

      I think they must develop a terminal leaf each year which partly creates the knobbly bit – I need to look out for that on my newer plants

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