Tree Following: Winter Quarters

IMG_4918After the changing colours of autumn and leaf fall and the gradual development and opening of flower buds the young witch hazel I have been watching for Lucy’s tree-following meme may not merit much of a glance for several months. The leaves very quickly followed on from the flowers, tight leaf buds opening fully within the space of this last month and displaying their bright green ovoid leaves which appear almost ridged with the veining on them. IMG_4920



Measuring the height of the tree today showed it to be 33″ or 84cms, so it has gained 3″ or 8cms since it was measured in October, all of 7 months ago, quite a sizeable gain for a slow-growing tree. A brief inspection for wildlife proved negative and thus there is little else to report.

IMG_4919However, looking at the remains of the flowers reminded me that last month we wondered if witch hazels produced seed so I made it my business to find out. It seems that witch hazels are potentially self pollinating but are generally pollinated by insects. The witch hazel’s genus name ‘Hamamelis’ means ‘together with fruit’, referring to the fact that the ‘fruit’ or seed does not form till about eight months after flowering, at the same time as the following year’s flowers are beginning to form.

The fruit is a two part capsule about 0.4 inches (1cm) across, containing a single glossy black seed in each part; this capsule splits explosively at maturity and can send the seed as much as 33 feet (10 metres) and the ejected seeds tend to remain dormant for two years prior to germination. I shall be observing my H vernalis ‘Amethyst’ closely to for the formation of seed capsules later in the year, although I know from my other witch hazels that only a few flowers seem to produce seed – not that I have ever seen the seed but the evidence of seed capsules is there. You may be able to make out the two parts of the empty seed capsule on these two examples from H ‘Arnold Promise’, coincidentally both inhabited when the photographs were taken!

winter.quartersAre there any witch hazel seedlings in my garden? Well, if the seeds are dispersed up to 33 feet away from the parent plant then I haven’t got a clue – and if there were they are likely to be mistaken for  Corylus avellana, the ordinary native hazel tree, and  pulled up…

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19 Responses to Tree Following: Winter Quarters

  1. You certainly do a brilliant job describing the leaves of your small and handsome tree. You make me want one right now…

  2. Lovely pictures. I always wonder why seedlings all have to look so similar — to other “wanted” plants and to weeds. I wish they had little signs on them saying “keep me!”.

  3. I do love witchhazel leaves, they are the saving grace of the fact that the tree is otherwise “quiet” all year – until that explosion of colour and scent just when you really need it. I will have to watch out for seeds on mine, hadn’t ever thought about that before.

  4. Cathy says:

    The leaves of your witchhazel look very similar to normal hazels. We have one hazel tree that always has much bigger leaves than the others, so I wonder if age plays a role! I wonder if you will ever find a witchhazel seedling… I found a different seedling last year by chance – when I pulled it up a walnut shell was still attached to the root!

    • Cathy says:

      I meant to post a photo of the ordinary hazel next to it – they are slightly toothed. Usually they come up with a hazel still attached to them, like your walnut, so that might help identification!

  5. Brian Skeys says:

    I didn’t know anything about Witch hazel seeds, I shall have to pot up any likely looking seedling in the garden. Very informative post, thank you.

  6. Chloris says:

    I never thought of that. I often pull up hazel seedlings. It would be fun to look out for seeds and try growing them on. I wonder what sort of flowers the children would have. They won’ t come true but they might still be pretty.

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, likewise – I am pleased I looked it up. I shall have to construct some sort of cage round any new seed case I find so it explodes into that and I can keep the seed!

  7. Christina says:

    Now you have a new focus, grow more witch hazels from seed and find the next new fabulously perfumed tree!

  8. Lucy Corrander says:

    I like the idea of explosive seeds but not of earwigs residing.

  9. Cathy says:

    Really interesting Cathy – and amazing to know that they don’t produce seed until 8 months later. That’s good growth on your young plant, isn’t it?

  10. homeslip says:

    I would certainly be looking for seeds and potting up seedlings. At the very worst you will have a collection of young hazel saplings (to give to someone so they could start a nuttery or a hazel coppice or even a hedge) and you may stumble upon a wonderful new progeny.

    • Cathy says:

      My garden would be a huge nuttery if I did not pull up all the hazel seedlings – so if someone else would like to start one instead they are very welcome to my seedlings! 😉

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