Sunday was a family day. My niece Amelia wanted to go to the Wild Butterfly Habitat and help scatter native wildflower seed to help start a new pollinator corridor. I was happy to share plant knowledge with her. Witch Hazel grows in the habitat and I excitedly showed my niece the elusive plant.
I explained that it was astringent and good for the skin. Amelia said, “Good because I have a pimple.” We picked a twig with tiny flowers. When we retired home, I boiled up water and ran the boiled water over the cut twig that exposed the inner bark where medicine is stored. It smelled good. After it cooled, we dipped our hands in the water and splashed it all over our faces.
Amelia noticed that the water made her face dry. It would – it is an astringent.
Lots to do out here at Winter Hill Farm, Fitchburg, MA. Today I walked over to the an area that has wild grape vines draping the trees and cascading over prickly forbidding wild rose plants. The roses are invasive and have made it difficult to harvest the grapes.
Today I took pruners and began to cut them out and discard the thorny pests into a pile. Many of the stems wanted to cling to me. They cut through my woolen shirt and tore at my jeans. No they didn’t like being moved to a waste pile and they let me know. I only was able to clear a small area. I will return again and again to cut away the thorny dominant community. The wild grapes will then be accessible hanging like a tarp over the trees. I can envision how lovely it is going to look, as early as next year, if I am persistent in this endeavor.
My sister wanted to take me back to the wetlands and show me a special area that is dear to her heart. It is an enchanted wetlands. I saw where she marked wild azaleas. Ronnie said, “It is so beautiful out here when they are in bloom, just like a fairyland.”
Later I walked back to the house by another route so I could possibly come to know how witch hazel (Hamamelis Virginia, Linn.) smelled. I never did have the privilege of knowing the scent, it eluded me. Recently somewhere I read about how one could sit in the woods in frosty November (we aren’t really there yet) and listen to the witch hazel fling its seeds, just like a sling shot. It is interesting that I found the information in a book, “Trees Worth Knowing,” by Julie E.Rogers, published in 1922. Ed, an elder in Minong, WI, presented the book to me one day. He told me that his mother-in-law had all kinds of plant books. He was happy to pass it on. The book binding is falling apart, but is interesting with its colorful language. “The witch hazel thicket is veiled with these gold-mesh flowers, as ethereal as the haunting perfume which they exhale.”
It is a November flower that has stubborn brown leaves clinging to twigs. How odd it is. I picked a few stems and am drying it. Not sure if it will work or not.
Years ago my husband (d. 2010) would walk across the Mall in Washington, DC, stopping in the herb garden, next to the Smithsonian castle,where I would meet him after work. He told me how much he loved the scent of this elusive plant. This is the reason I am tracking the scent. I wish I could have this experience so I would know what he experienced. Perhaps it was an experience meant just for him.
The plant is a species of elm. There are people who supposedly know how to use the forked twigs to locate water. The twigs have astringent properties and is sold in pharmacies for topical use.
Thanks for joining me today for a Sunday walk in the woods.