Meet Your Neighbors: Season of the Witch

By Jack MacRae

Witch Hazel was one of my least favorite Looney Toons characters.  She wasn’t a deep thinker like Foghorn Leghorn or a slapstick genius like Yosemite Sam.  But I do like her namesake shrub.  Witch Hazel was named after an attractive tree native to our understory of our wooded lands. witch hazel

Blooming during the fall, this short tree produces slender, bright yellow blossoms.  These faintly fragrant flowers are interesting in that they emerge only after the witch hazel leaves have turned from green to yellow and fallen to the ground.

The fruit of witch hazel requires a full year to ripen.  It has small brown pods that eject last year’s shiny black seeds up to 20 feet away.

Named by early settlers because it resembled the hazel tree native to Europe, the witch hazel does not refer to wiccans or witchcraft.  It seems witch hazel was a branch of choice for divining rods.  Water witching is an archaic term for the practice of locating water and minerals below ground by means of bending sticks.

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