Witch Hazel Tree

Facts About The Witch Hazel Tree

Familiar to those in the east who frequent walks through the woods, the witch hazel tree is a small tree that never grows past 25 feet.  Unlike many other trees, the leaves usually stay on the branches throughout the winter.

The witch hazel tree grows naturally along rivers and anywhere else where the soil is very rich. In addition to being commonly found in the eastern part of the United States, the trees are also rather common in the middle section of Canada.

Many use these compact trees in their landscaping plans. They are fairly easy to care for and tend to do well in most yards. While most trees are ready to shed their leaves in the fall, that is when the witch hazel tree is just getting started.

The small yellow blooms are quite fragrant and will last several weeks. Once the blooms fall, the leaves, as mentioned earlier, continue to cling to the branches. Once the weather starts to turn toward the spring, the witch hazel trees leaves will begin to fall.

How Did the Tree Get its Name?

Some think that the witch hazel tree was given its name due the fact that the tree is included in a number of cosmetic and medicinal remedies. Some claim to improve skin conditions while others say witch hazel can have a healing effect on hemorrhoids and other ailments.

Botanists, however, say that the name has nothing to do with the trees alleged medicinal powers. Instead, they say, the word “witch” comes from the word “wych” which means bending. It is largely thought that the name “wych” was applied to this tree due to its short stature and rather bent shape.

A Variety of Uses

Those who are into the art of herbal medicine, however, would disagree that the name came from those origins and instead think the word “witch” is a nod to mystical powers some attribute to the tree.  Some think that the tree has the ability to protect people from witches.

Those who practice witchcraft today use parts of the tree in concoctions that are supposed to ward off all types of evil and that claim to heal the hearts and spirits of the users.

Others, who may not subscribe to the otherworldly uses for the tree, have found it to be a source of healing. Native Americans have long used the tree in preparing and medicines to aid with a variety of ailments such as colds and the healing of wounds.

It is also used in a number of commercial products, one of the most common being an astringent for the skin.

No matter who you believe when it comes to how the tree got its name, there is one thing that most agree on:  This is a lovely addition to many landscaping plans.

Even if you don’t believe the more colorful origins of the name, it is a fun bit of lore to share with your children as you work around the yard together, caring for your witch hazel tree.