Native plants provide beauty as well as food and shelter for wildlife. Native species are adapted to the Illinois climate. They require little or no watering and are resistant to drought, insects and most diseases. Because they are perennials, you can welcome their presence year after year.
witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Photo © John Hilty
Witch hazel grows in woods, savannas, woodland edges and dunes near Lake Michigan. It can be found in the northern one-half of Illinois plus Richland, St. Clair, Wabash and White counties, although it is not common anywhere in the state. Its leaves are placed alternately along the stem. The leaves are four to six inches long and two to three inches wide with rounded, widely spaced teeth around the edges. The two sides of the leaves do not meet evenly at the leaf base. Leaves turn yellow in fall. Blooming occurs from September through November. Witch hazel is the last woody plant to bloom in the fall, and it usually does so after its leaves fall from the stems. The flowers have four narrow, yellow petals and four, triangular, yellow sepals and appear in clusters. The fruit produced is a capsule containing dark seeds that takes a year to mature. The capsules usually open in the fall as the flowers are in bloom. This tree or shrub may attain a height of up to 20 feet and a diameter of 10 inches. The flowers provide nectar for pollinators. The plant parts are eaten by a variety of insects and insect larvae. Seeds provide food for wildlife.
Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014.
Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.