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Hamamelis virginiana L.

Figure 122.—Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Other common names.—Snapping hazel, winterbloom, wych-hazel, striped alder, spotted alder, tobacco wood.

Habitat and range.—The home of this native shrub is in low damp woods from New Brunswick to Minnesota and south to Florida and Texas

Description.—Witch-hazel, while it may grow to 25 feet in height, more frequently reaches a height of only 8 to 15 feet. It has a crooked stem and long forking branches with smooth, brown bark. The leaves are from 3 to 5 inches long, thick, and borne on short stalks. A peculiar feature of the plant is the lateness of the threadlike, yellow flowers, which do not appear until late in autumn or in early winter after the leaves have fallen. The seed capsule does not mature until the following season, when it bursts open, scattering the shining black, hard seeds with great force and to a considerable distance.

Part used.—The leaves, twigs, and bark, collected in autumn. These contain a volatile oil the distillation of which for the production of witch-hazel extract b; a well-developed industry in southern New England.*

*Information on the extraction of volatile oils from plants is contained in the following publication: Sievers, A.F. Methods of extracting volatile oils from plant material and the production of such oils in the United States. U.S. Dept. Agr. Tech. Bul. 16, 36 p. illus. 1928.

Sievers, A.F. 1930. The Herb Hunters Guide. Misc. Publ. No. 77. USDA, Washington DC.
Last update Friday, April 3, 1998 by aw