Hamamelis virginiana, Virginian witch hazel seeds
Hamamelis virginiana belongs to the family of the Hamameldiaceae, the witch hazel family. The plant is native to North America and also known as Virginian witch hazel or American witch hazel. H. virginiana grows as a small tree and resembles the hazel bush. The American witch hazel reaches a height of about 7m and builds a big treetop. Its trunk is quite small. The leaves of the Virginian witch hazel are ovate to elliptic and taper to the front. From the middle of the leaf to the front of the leaf, the leaf edge is dentate. The venation is clearly visible. In spring the leaves are deeply green. There color changes in fall to a bright yellow. The flowers of the American witch hazel occur in fall when the leaves have already fallen down. The flowers sit directly at the branches and have a quite strong odor. They are slightly yellow and look a bit like a coral. Without the leaves just with the flowers the plant looks really very special and beautiful. The fruits develop one year later in fall. The fruit is a woody capsule that opens at the plant explosively. In that way the seeds fly several meters away from the mother plant. In Europe the American witch hazel is a popular ornamental plant. H. virginiana is also used in various ways in the medicine. The natives of America used H. virginiana for bad healing wounds. Furthermore it can be used for itchy skin and nose bleeding. When the American witch hazel is used internal it can lead to sickness as a side effect. This can happen to people with a sensitive stomach. All parts of the plant are used in medicine, the bark, root, branches and leaves. Hamamelitannine is one of the main substances that have a healing effect.
Growing Hamamelis virginiana from seeds
The seeds of Hamamelis virginiana need several pretreatments. First of all the seed should be put for several hours into water. After that the seeds need a warm and a cold stratification because the seeds have a double dormancy. This means the seeds should be put into the moist substrate and placed warm for 3 month. After that they should be transferred into the fridge for another 3 months. That simulates the change between summer and winter and is necessary for a successful germination. The time until germination occurs can strongly vary. H. virginiana is more a plant for really patient botanists. The American witch hazel prefers nutrient rich and acid soil. The soil should not contain calcium carbonate. The American witch hazel does not tolerate this. H. virginiana is winter hardy.
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