In the heart of winter, one Missouri shrub defies the dormant season: this week on Discover Nature, keep an eye out for Ozark witch-hazel.
This native shrub, with tight, gray bark, and alternate, egg-shaped leaves, brings some of the first color of the year to Missouri’s wooded landscapes.
Yellow to dark-red, fragrant flowers adorn its branches from January through April. In the fall, hard, woody fruits will pop open with enough force to throw seeds up to 30-feet away.
At about ten-feet tall, look for this Missouri marvel in gravel and rocky, dry streambeds, or at the base of rocky slopes.
Growing out of these precarious positions, this shrub’s roots help prevent erosion, and different parts of the plant provide food for deer, beaver, squirrels, rabbits, turkey, and grouse.
Missourians have long used Ozark witch-hazel to make extracts for lotions and ointments, and “witch wigglers,” or “water witches” have traditionally used its forked branches to find the best places to dig water wells.
Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.