A small deciduous tree 20 or even 30 ft high in the wild, often a shrub of bushy habit, with a short thick trunk and crooked, wide-spreading branches; young shoots at first downy. Leaves broadly ovate to obovate, 3 to 5 in. long, 2 to 31⁄2 in. wide; unequal at the base, unevenly and coarsely round-toothed, especially on the upper part; glabrous or nearly so above, downy with stellate hairs on the midrib and veins beneath; stalk downy, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Flowers golden yellow, opening in September and continuing until November, produced two to four together in a cluster at the end of a stalk 1⁄4 in. long; petals 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 in. long, narrowly strap-shaped, crumpled; calyx with four short, broadly ovate, hairy lobes, yellowish brown inside. Bot. Mag., t. 6884.
Native of eastern N. America from Nova Scotia to the mountains of the Carolinas and Tennessee; introduced in 1736. This interesting shrub or tree, although so long an inhabitant of our gardens, is not very common nowadays, being eclipsed by the newer, winter-flowering, Asiatic specics. The beauty of this witch-hazel is sometimes decreased by its being in full leaf at flowering time, so that the blossoms, closely tucked to the twigs, have little chance to show themselves, especially as the leaves turn yellow also before falling. The fruits – woody, nutlike bodies 1⁄2 in. long, bursting at the top – do not ripen and discharge their seeds until twelve months after the time of flowering. Various popular remedies are made from extracts and decoctions of the bark and leaves.
To the above it should be added that seedlings of H. virginiana have been raised in the Arboretum de Kalmthout, Belgium, which flower after the leaves have fallen (Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 94 (1969), p. 85).