Witch Hazel Coated in Ice

March 08, 2008

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Provided by: Christina Pax
Summary author: Christina Pax 

This photo, taken December 16, 2007 in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, shows the fall-winter bloom of witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, encased in ice. Overnight, freezing rain coated the landscape with a veneer of ice. Witch hazel is a small tree-shrub that's native to forests of eastern North America. It accommodates the relative scarcity of pollinating insects in late fall by being self-pollinating as well as insect pollinated. Although bloom and pollination happen between September and December, actual fertilization of the pollinated ovules does not occur until the following Spring, with fruit ripening in time to disperse seed at about the same time as the following year's bloom. On that day when the temperature and humidity are just right, the pods explode, shooting seeds out some 10-20 feet (3-6 m) from the parent plant.