Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive

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This series of short articles about trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens is compiled by members of the Friends group and Gardens staff. We aim to build up to a comprehensive archive of trees in Belfast Botanic Gardens. Each article illustrates a tree growing in Belfast Botanic Gardens together with information from a range of sources. Where possible we will give the tree tag number - these are the small aluminium discs, usually fixed on the tree trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.
Hamamelis species (H. mollis, H. japonica, H. viginiana, H. x intermedia)
Witch hazels

Tag -
54 deg 34.928N
5 deg 55.808W

Hamamelis (family Hamamelidaceae) is a genus of 5 species and many garden hybrids. The three species commonly found in cultivation are H. japonica Japanese witch hazel (from Japan), H. mollis Chinese witch hazel and H. virginiana from Eastern North America.


Most of the cultivated witch hazels that we grow in our gardens today are varieties of the hybrid witch hazel, H. x intermedia, of parent species H. mollis and H. japonica, usually grafted on to rootstock of H. virginiana. H. mollis, H. japonica and H. x intermedia flower in mid-winter, usually coming into flower in Ireland in mid-January and continuing into February.


All the witch hazels have flowers with four distinctive strap-shaped petals. Many are deliciously scented, and some, such as ‘Arnold Promise’ have good autumn colour. Mostly very hardy, they will withstand frost, snow and wind. Altogether, they are among the best and most spectacular winter-flowering shrubs or small trees for an Irish garden, and deserve to be more widely planted.

The North American witch hazel flowers in Autumn, from September to December. It is the commercial source of distilled witch hazel which is extracted from the twigs and bark and used to alleviate swelling of bruises and veins.

Belfast Botanic Gardens has a fine collection of winter flowering cultivars in a range of colours, from deep red ‘Ruby Glow’ to the orange hues of ‘Jelena’ and the beautiful pale yellow highly scented ‘Pallida’. There are several large bushes of North American witch hazel. These may have been planted or may derive from the root stocks of grafted plants, either way an interesting addition.

Hamamelis species in Belfast Botanic Gardens

Hamamelis x intermedia

Group of witch hazels in Belfast Botanic Gardens Hamamelis x intermedia 'Ruby Glow'

Hamamelis x intermedia cf 'Jelena'

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida'

Hamamelis x intermedia cf 'Jelena' Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' in snow
Hamamelis virginia in spring
Hamamelis virginiana in January after the petals have been shed

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 20013. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.

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