Pick up know-how for tackling diseases, pests and weeds.
Farm bill, farm marketing, agribusiness webinars, & farm policy.
Find tactics for healthy livestock and sound forages.
Scheduling and methods of irrigation.
Explore our Extension locations around the state.
Commercial row crop production in Arkansas.
Agriculture weed management resources.
Use virtual and real tools to improve critical calculations for farms and ranches.
Learn to ID forages and more.
Explore our research locations around the state.
Get the latest research results from our county agents.
Our programs include aquaculture, diagnostics, and energy conservation.
Keep our food, fiber and fuel supplies safe from disaster.
Private, Commercial & Non-commercial training and education.
Specialty crops including turfgrass, vegetables, fruits, and ornamentals.
Find educational resources and get youth engaged in agriculture.
Gaining garden smarts and sharing skills.
Creating beauty in and around the home.
Maintenance calendar, and best practices.
Coaxing the best produce from asparagus to zucchini.
What’s wrong with my plants? The clinic can help.
Featured trees, vines, shrubs and flowers.
Ask our experts plant, animal, or insect questions.
Enjoying the sweet fruits of your labor.
Herbs, native plants, & reference desk QA.
Growing together from youth to maturity.
Crapemyrtles, hydrangeas, hort glossary, and weed ID databases.
Get beekeeping, honey production, and class information.
Grow a pollinator-friendly garden.
Schedule these timely events on your gardening calendar.
Equipping individuals to lead organizations, communities, and regions.
Guiding communities and regions toward vibrant and sustainable futures.
Guiding entrepreneurs from concept to profit.
Position your business to compete for government contracts.
Find trends, opportunities and impacts.
Providing unbiased information to enable educated votes on critical issues.
Increase your knowledge of public issues & get involved.
Research-based connection to government and policy issues.
Support Arkansas local food initiatives.
Read about our efforts.
Preparing for and recovering from disasters.
Licensing for forestry and wildlife professionals.
Preserving water quality and quantity.
Cleaner air for healthier living.
Firewood & bioenergy resources.
Managing a complex forest ecosystem.
Read about nature across Arkansas and the U.S.
Learn to manage wildlife on your land.
Soil quality and its use here in Arkansas.
Learn to ID unwanted plant and animal visitors.
Timely updates from our specialists.
Eating right and staying healthy.
Ensuring safe meals.
Take charge of your well-being.
Cooking with Arkansas foods.
Making the most of your money.
Making sound choices for families and ourselves.
Nurturing our future.
Get tips for food, fitness, finance, and more!
Understanding aging and its effects.
Giving back to the community.
Managing safely when disaster strikes.
Listen to our latest episode!
Yesterday while driving off the ridgetops into the headwaters of the White River,
I spotted the soft yellow blossoms of a common witchhazel in full bloom. Arkansas
has two witchhazels, Hamamelis virginiana, the fall blooming common witchhazel and H. vernalis, the spring blooming Ozark witchhazel. As interesting and beautiful as these large
shrubs or small trees are, I’m always surprised how infrequently they are seen in
Differentiating between the two witchhazels is easy. Not only do they bloom at different
seasons, but they grow in different sites. The common witchhazel, which has a native
range from East Texas to Canada, is mostly found in higher ground away from rivers
and streams whereas the Ozark witchhazel usually is found next to seasonal streams
or sometimes in adjacent floodways. This species has a limited range and is found
only in the Ozarks and adjacent areas in the Ouachita Mountains.
Additionally, Ozark witchhazels tend to be somewhat smaller and more bush-like, seldom
reaching more than 15 feet in height with multiple branches sent up from the base.
The common witchhazels grow up to 20 feet tall and are more likely to have one trunk,
though they too sucker freely from the base of the plant.
Both witchhazels have a wide range of flower colors from soft yellow through red-brown
but from the plants I’ve observed the common witchhazels in Arkansas tend more towards
the yellow end of the spectrum while the Ozark witchhazels are usually darker in color
and shaded towards red-brown. I think the Ozark witchhazel is more sweetly fragrant
than its fall-blooming kin, but the difference is minimal. Both species can have a
nice yellow fall color but Ozark witchhazels tend to hold on to their leaves over
winter, partially obscuring the strap shaped blooms in the spring.
Witchhazels have had a long history of folk use in rural parts of America. An extract
of witchhazel bark, twigs and even roots was used by Native Americans in topical medicines,
primarily as a mild astringent. Extracts are still offered in places selling herbal
remedies. The tissue is steamed under pressure and the hydrosol extract collected.
The water soluble witchhazel extract is primarily used for topical application for
swelling caused by bruising, insect bites, pimples and poison ivy rash. It is also
used in most hemorrhoid medicines.
The second folk use of witchhazel means we need to examine the common name more closely.
The name witchhazel is a derivation from old English “wiche” or the even older “wicken”
which derives from Anglo-Saxon times. All refer to a limb that is pliant or bendable
and comes into current usage as the word “switch.” Early English settlers found that
the branches of the common witchhazel could be used to dowse or divine for underground
water much as the hazel bush (Corylus) was used back in England.
Divining, witching or dowsing for water has enjoyed a long history around the world.
The scientific community pretty much dismisses the exercise as superstitious hogwash,
but the practice still persists. The twitching and dipping seen in these rods is attributed
to the object being held in a state of unstable stress. Say the scientists, any slight
muscle tremor, breeze or movement from walking can cause the rod to flex. Or, could
there still be things in the world the experts haven’t quite figured out? I, for one,
certainly hope so.
Peach branches, cherry stems, willows and even brass rods are more often employed
today, but dowsing is still widely practiced. My son drilled a water well a few years
back. The “put it here” approach was a dry hole while the dowsed well just a short
distance from the first, produced a strong flow. I will keep an open mind and, some
cold and rainy day, set down and watch all those YouTube videos and get the real answer
to this perplexing question.
Gerald Klingaman is a retired Arkansas Extension Horticulturist and retired Operations
Director for the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. After more than two decades of penning the popular Plant of the Week column, he’s taking a new direction, offering views on nature as he pokes about the
state and nation. Views and opinions reflect those of the author and are not those
of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. If you have questions
or comments for Dr. Klingaman about these articles contact him at email@example.com.