Discover Nature: Witch Hazel

Jan 24, 2017

In the heart of winter, one Missouri shrub defies the dormant season. This week on Discover Nature, we’ll look for the Ozark witch hazel.

Witch Hazel is widely cultivated in part for its amazing trait of blooming as early as January, sometimes when snow is on the ground. Learn more on this week's Discover Nature.
Credit Missouri Department of Conservation

This native shrub, with tight, gray bark and alternate egg-shaped leaves, brings some of the first color of the year to Missouri woods and landscapes.

Yellow to dark-red, fragrant flowers adorn its branches from January, through April.  In the fall, hard, woody fruits will pop open with enough force to throw seeds up to 30 feet away.

At about ten-feet tall, look for this Missouri marvel in gravel and rocky, dry streambeds, or at the base of rocky slopes.  

Missourians have long used Ozark witch hazel to make extract for lotions and ointments – and traditional well-diggers used these branches to find the best spots to dig for water.

The Ozark witch hazel provides fine erosion control, and wildlife benefits: deer, beaver, squirrels and rabbits, and turkey and grouse all eat different parts of the plant. 

Learn more about Ozark witch hazel with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.