Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Witch hazel

Hamamelis_virginiana_02 (3)Vivian Moir writes:
We have some lovely witch hazels [Hamamelis] in our garden, three different colours. Do you know why they were given this name?

Response
According to Wikipedia:
The name witch in witch hazel has its origins in Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning ‘pliant’ or ‘bendable’. Witch hazel was used in England as a synonym for wych elm, Ulmus glabra. American colonists simply extended the familiar name to the new shrub. The use of the twigs as divining rods, just as hazel [Corylus avellana] were used in England, may also, by folk etymology, influenced the ‘witch’ part of the name [RV, 23 September 2013].

Image: Hamamelis virginiana; H. Zell, Wiki Commons.

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