This variety of witch-hazel is native to eastern North America. “Witch-hazel” suggests a potion crafted by witches, but this is not the case at all. “Witch” derives from “wych-elm” (in turn from wican “to bend”); and “Hazel” derives from hæsel, meaning a bush of the pine family. The soothing lotion by the same name is derived from this plant, though.
Identification: Plants are 9½-26' (3-8 m) tall, rarely up to 39' (12 m), usually somewhat irregular shrubs. Leaves are alternate, 1½-6" (4-16 cm) long × 1-4" (3-11 cm) broad, usually with wavy margins and coarse teeth. Witch-hazels have the unusual property that fruit, flowers and next year’s leaf buds all appear on branches simultaneously.
The flowers are unusual in shape and color, comprised of thin wrinkly strap-shaped petals each ⅜-¾" (1-2 cm)
long, which may be pale- to dark-yellow, orange, or red. They are among the first flowers visible in the spring,
appearing in the north while snow is still on the ground. The tan fruits are a two-part (sometimes three-part) capsule
like partly fused ovals. Each capsule contains a black glossy seed up to ⅛" (5 mm) long. Seeds are ejected explosively over distances up to 33' (10 m).
Medical: Witch-hazel extract, an aromatic alcoholic solution prepared from the
macerated stems and leaves of this plant, is a mild astringent, tightening skin.
Spiny witch hazel gall, created by an aphid. · 10/11/2011 · Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, Massachusetts ≈ 4½ × 3" (11 × 7.9 cm)
Spiny witch hazel gall, created by an aphid, Hamamelistes spinosus. That's probably one poking out near the base. · 7/17/2017 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, Massachusetts ≈ 3½ × 3½" (8.7 × 8.7 cm)
Young leaves are sometimes red. · 6/2/2014 · Big Bear Mountain, Brookline, Massachusetts ≈ 9 × 6" (23 × 15 cm)