In this series I'm looking at the flowers of trees - and this is probably one of the smallest trees that will be featured. Collins Complete British Trees gives a guideline height at maturity of just 4 metres and in horticultural terms the witch hazel would often be termed a shrub. However, biologically speaking there is no difference between a tree and a shrub even if it is multi-stemmed rather than a singe trunk. We have a rather lovely rowan in our garden and that required a lot of encouragement to adopt a single trunk and still sends out shoots at ground level.
Witch hazels (Hamamelis mollis) are native to China, and introduced to Britain by Charles Maries of James Veitch & Sons in the 19th century. However, this particular cultivar is from The Netherlands. Whitman Farms, Oregon in the US, write that this cultivar may be the oldest in production.
The flowers have ribbon-like petals with the stamens being red in colour. As you can see in the photo above, the flowers put on their display before the leaves arrive and that the branches are covered with flowers. The flowers are also supposedly scented, but I have to admit, I've never noticed any scent from the witch hazels I've come across - primarily at Westonbirt Arboretum. The mollis part of the latin name refers to the leaves, which have fine, felt-like hairs, as described in RHS Latin for Gardeners. David Gledhill in the fourth edition of The Names of Plants writes that Hamamelis refers to plants with 'pear-shaped' fruits
Boskoop (Hamamelis ‘Boskoop’) | Whitman Farms. 2016. Boskoop (Hamamelis ‘Boskoop’) | Whitman Farms. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.whitmanfarms.com/allplants/ornamental-plants/other-plant-groups/witch-hazels/boskoop-hamamelis-boskoop/. [Accessed 07 February 2016].
Gledhill, David. The Names of Plants. 4 edition. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Hamamelis mollis Background . 2016. Hamamelis mollis Background . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.coblands.co.uk/info/hamamelis-mollis-background. [Accessed 07 February 2016].
Harrison, Lorraine, and The Royal Horticultural Society. RHS Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 plant names explained and explored. London: Mitchell Beazley, 2012.
Sterry, Paul. British Trees: A Photographic Guide to Every Common Species. First Edition edition. London: Collins, 2008.