Thursday, April 18, 2013

Witch hazel seeds

What: Once I found out that witch hazel (Hammemelis virginiana) has projectile seeds I got really excited about seeing that process. I've been watching witch hazel all winter, and just last week I noticed that all of the capsules at Rock Point had finally split open, scattering seeds all about!

Ecological notes: Apparently the capsules can take up to 2 years to develop. Warmth triggers the capsules to pop open (they make a loud popping noise). So I suppose you should be careful about taking unopened seed pods inside. These guys opened when the weather was in the mid-50s. I included a couple of photos from previous falls, the first with the beautiful stringy yellow flowers, the second with developing capsules. 
Witch hazel flowers (photo taken at end of September)

Developing seed capsules (also taken in the fall)
Where: Rock Point

Other notes: The name witch hazel derives from the Old English wiche (probably akin to wicker), which means pliable. Hazel is adopted from the common name for European species in the genus Corya (like our native beaked hazelnut, Corylus cornuta).

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