One of the last flowering shrubs of the year, American Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a hiker’s delight when spotted late in the fall. Native to both Northeastern and Southeastern USA, their fragrant bright yellow blossoms appear late in the autumn after all the leaves have fallen from the other woodland species.
So what pollinates this late blossoming plant? A winter owlet moth known as a sallow.
The fruit of the Witchhazel blossoms goes dormant during the winter, developing into a seed during the following growing season. Once the seed is fully developed, it is expelled some 20 or more feet in the autumn.
As you might expect, seeing this lovely American Witchhazel shrub blossoming during my turkey hunts is something I look forward to each fall. The shrub prefers semi-shaded habitat so it is found along the edges of many of the wildlife trails I use for scouting. It likes rich moist soils, so it is right at home along the edges of the hardwoods.
The astringent called “witch hazel” is made from the leaves and bark of the Witchhazel shrub. It is used to treat a variety of ailments from acne to insect bites, and for more aesthetic uses from aftershave lotion to tightening bagging skin.
Maryann Whitman says
Wonderful bit of information!
This prompted me to look up the Winter Sallow on Bugguide.net. They are the moths that I saw flying at 37 degree dusk last evening! A puzzling sight. Coincidentally, the witch hazels are in bloom.
I love knowing/understanding this.
Donna VanBuecken says
Hi! Maryann. I had seen these moths out late at night in the winter as well. ‘Always was amazed these small creatures could be flitting around in the cold. I was glad to find out more about them and to share with everyone.