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Wych Elm, Magician's Rod, Snapping Hazel, Spotted alder, Tobacco Wood, White Hazel, Winter Bloom, Snapping Hazel
Facts & Folkore:
The witch-hazels are deciduous shrubs whose Latin name(Hamamelis) means "together with fruit", referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year.
Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule containing a single glossy black seed in each of the two parts; the capsule splits explosively at maturity in the autumn about 8 months after flowering, ejecting the seeds with sufficient force to fly for distances of up to 10 metres (33 ft), yielding its other name of "Snapping Hazel."
The name Witch in witch-hazel has its origins in Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning "pliant" or "bendable". "Witch hazel" was originally used in England as a synonym for Wych Elm, Ulmus glabra. American colonists simply extended the familiar name to the new shrub.
The use of the twigs as divining or dowsing rods, just as hazel twigs were used in England, may also have, by folk etymology, influenced the "witch" part of the name.
The leaves and bark of the North American Witch-hazel Hamamelis virginiana may be used to produce an astringent, also referred to as witch hazel, and is used medicinally. This plant extract was widely used for medicinal purposes by American Indians and is available in many products, mainly used externally on sores, bruises, and swelling.
The plant’s preference for growing in damp woods and stream corridors was noted by early settlers who believed that the plant could lead them to critical and elusive underground springs.
“Water witching” dowsers selected forked witch hazel branches growing in a north-south orientation to create their divining rods. Then, holding the forked stick by the tines, they combed the landscape waiting for the telltale tug or bend of the stick, indicating an underground water source.
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