Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Hamamelis virginiana


SPECIES: Hamamelis virginiana
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Coladonato, Milo. 1993. Hamamelis virginiana. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : HAMVIR SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : HAVI4 COMMON NAMES : witch-hazel TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for witch-hazel is Hamamelis virginiana L. [24]. Two varieties are recognized: the typical variety, Hamamelis virginiana var. virginiana and the "prairie peninsula" variety, Hamamelis virginiana var. parvifolia Nutt. [3] LIFE FORM : Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Hamamelis virginiana
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Witch-hazel occurs throughout the northeastern and southeastern United States.  It extends from the Appalachian Mountains south to the northern Florida Panhandle and west from the mountains into Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, western Kentucky, eastern Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas.  At its northern limit, witch-hazel ranges along the southern border of Canada from southern Ontario to southern Nova Scotia [3,12,25,32]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES10  White - red - jack pine    FRES11  Spruce - fir    FRES12  Longleaf - slash pine    FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine    FRES14  Oak - pine    FRES15  Oak - hickory    FRES18  Maple - beech - birch STATES :      AL  AR  CT  DE  FL  GA  IL  IN  IA  KY      LA  ME  MD  MA  MI  MN  MS  MO  NH  NJ      NY  NC  OH  OK  PA  SC  TN  TX  VT  VA      WV  NB  NS  ON  PQ BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K095  Great Lakes pine forest    K096  Northeastern spruce - fir forest    K097  Southeastern spruce - fir forest    K100  Oak - hickory forest    K101  Elm - ash forest    K102  Beech - maple forest    K104  Appalachian oak forest    K106  Northern hardwoods    K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest    K112  Southern mixed forest    K113  Southern floodplain forest SAF COVER TYPES :     14  Northern pin oak     17  Pin cherry     19  Gray birch - red maple     20  White pine - northern red oak - red maple     21  Eastern white pine     22  White pine - hemlock     23  Eastern hemlock     24  Hemlock - yellow birch     25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch     28  Black cherry - maple     31  Red spruce - sugar maple - beech     32  Red spruce     40  Post oak - blackjack oak     42  Bur oak     43  Bear oak     44  Chestnut oak     45  Pitch pine     51  White pine - chestnut oak     52  White oak - black oak - northern red oak     53  White oak     55  Northern red oak     57  Yellow-poplar     59  Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak     60  Beech - sugar maple     62  Silver maple - American elm     64  Sassafras - persimmon     75  Shortleaf pine     79  Virginia pine     80  Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine     81  Loblolly pine     82  Loblolly pine - hardwood     83  Longleaf pine - slash pine     93  Sugarberry - American elm - green ash     97  Atlantic white-cedar    108  Red maple    110  Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Hamamelis virginiana
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : The fruit of witch-hazel is eaten by ruffed grouse, northern bobwhite, ring-necked pheasant, and white-tailed deer.  The fruit is also frequently eaten by beaver and cottontail rabbit [11,35]. Witch-hazel fruit is a minor fall food for black bear in western Massachusetts [15]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : Medicinal extracts, lotions, and salves are prepared from the leaves, twigs, and bark of witch-hazel.  The distillate is used to reduce inflammation, stop bleeding, and check secretions of the mucous membranes.  Extracts of the twigs were also believed to infuse the imbiber with occult powers [36,37]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Witch-hazel competes with more desirable hardwoods for available light and moisture [26].  Its dense cover inhibits seed germination of intolerant species [9].   Blair and Burnett [2] reported that witch-hazel, along with Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), red maple (Acer rubrum), and post oak (Quercus stellata), declined by 94.7 percent collectively after logging.


SPECIES: Hamamelis virginiana
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Witch-hazel is a deciduous shrub or small tree with a short trunk, bearing numerous spreading, crooked branches.  At maturity, it is commonly 15 to 25 (4.5-7.5 m) feet tall.  It has thin bark and shallow roots.  The fruit is a woody capsule containing two to four seeds [19,20,21,23]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :       Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Witch-hazel reproduces mainly by seed.  After maturing the capsules burst open, explosively discharging their seeds several yards from the parent plant.  There is limited dispersal by birds. The seeds germinate the second year after dispersal [5,29].  Brinkman [4] reported that witch-hazel can be propagated by layering. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Witch-hazel is found on a variety of sites but is most abundant in mesic woods and bottoms.  In the western and southern parts of its range, it is confined to moist cool valleys, moist flats, north and east slopes, coves, benches, and ravines.  In the northern part of its range, it is found on drier and warmer sites of slopes and hilltops [1,6,8,27]. In addition to those species listed under Distribution and Occurrence, common tree and shrub associates of witch-hazel include white ash (Fraxinus americana), blackgum, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.), pepperbush (Clethra acuminata), sweetgum, flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), and eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) [6,7,20,30]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Witch-hazel is a shade-tolerant, mid- to late-seral species.  It sometimes forms a solid understory in second-growth and old-growth forests in the eastern United States [9,13,14]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : The flowers of witch-hazel open in September and October, and the fruit ripens the next fall.  Shortly after ripening, the capsules burst open, discharging their seed [4,5].


SPECIES: Hamamelis virginiana
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : DeBruyn and Buckner [10] rated witch-hazel low in fire resistance.  This is probably due to its thin bark, shallow roots, and low-branching habit.  Fire survival strategies were not given. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Hamamelis virginiana
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Witch-hazel is readily killed by fire.  In a prescribed fire in a loblolly pine community in western Tennessee, witch hazel suffered 54 percent mortality [10]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Witch-hazel's response to fire is not well documented.  Literature suggests that it is generally a fire decreaser, although pre- and postfire/unburned control comparisions were unavailable as of 1993 [17,31,38]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : On the George Washington National Forest, West Virginia, a spring prescribed fire increased witch-hazel seedling density in a mixed-hardwood forest. Average witch-hazel seedling densities before fire and in postfire year 5 were 290 and 365 seedlings/acre, respectively; witch-hazel sprout densities were 395 sprouts/acre before and 184 sprouts/acre 5 years after the fire. See the Research Paper of Wendel and Smith's [39] study for details on the fire prescription and fire effects on witch-hazel and 6 other tree species. The following Research Project Summaries provide information on prescribed
fire use and postfire response of plant community species, including
witch-hazel, that was not available when this species review was originally



SPECIES: Hamamelis virginiana


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