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Witch-hazel Flowers
October 22, 2018 by Jon Hayes

There is only one tree or shrub native to Canada that blooms in the autumn - and it grows wild here in High Park: Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)! Witch-hazel’s yellow, spiderish flowers bloom in September - October and can perfume the trails with a gentle floral fragrance. But, how do the Witch-hazel flowers get pollinated in the cold October weather when bees and most other pollinators have stopped flying? It would appear that late fall moths such as sallow and owlet moths vibrate their wings to create the necessary warmth for their bodies to fly in order to visit the Witch-hazel flowers for a nectar feast. Their furry-scaled bodies help move the pollen and ensure that the flowers are fertilized. Once a Witch-hazel flower is pollinated it won’t ripen until next autumn. The name Witch-hazel implies magical powers which is likely due to their use as dowsing rods for finding underground water or minerals. It really is the perfect Halloween tree.

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