FLOWERS BY MONTY
If you have raging hemorrhoids like I do, then this following plant might already have a soft spot in your heart. This month, the featured flowering plant is Witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana. It is a native plant to this area commonly found in woodlands as an underground deciduous shrub to small tree. It is in fact so common that it is difficult to take a walk through our eastern forests and not discover this beautiful plant.
It ranges from 15-30 feet in height, often forming sparse groups. It possesses alternately arranged simple leaves that have a crenate to coarsely toothed margin. As the days become shorter and the nights cooler, the leaves change a brilliant yellow as the tree prepares to over winter. This yellow is due to xanthophyll pigments that show through as the breakdown of chlorophyll occurs. Currently, and through the remainder of the month, Witch-hazel can be found brightening up the under-story of forest communities with their showy leaves.
One of Witch-hazel’s most unique characteristics is found in its flowering time. As the leaves are changing colors and trees are preparing for the winter, witch-hazels are producing their unique crinkled yellow flowers. They are in fact the last of the shrubs to flower as they do so through the month of October. After flowering, Witch-hazel will produce a woody capsule that will forcibly discharge the seeds when the fruits mature.
Due to the plants high tannin content, Hamamelis virginiana has a long history as a medicinal plant. Extracts are produced from the bark and leaves for their astringent properties. In the past it has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Extracts have even been reportedly used as a vaginal douche for vaginitis. Other common uses have been for the treatment of: varicose veins, eye inflammations, irritation from insect bites and stings, bleeding control, and even can help sooth the painful hemorrhoid. So if you’re ever experiencing that burning, itching sensation, or have an uncomfortable swelling, maybe you’ll find the relief found from inside this local plant.