Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wych Hazel

click photo to enlarge
There's a place in every garden for a few odd looking plants. And, if that odd looking plant can provide colour in the depths of winter, then it is doubly welcome. The witch hazel (Hamamellis mollis) is such a plant, and this morning I braved the cold to examine it in all its weird splendour.

This winter flowering deciduous shrub was introduced into Britain from China in 1879. Closely related species are also found in Japan and North America. In January and February the bare twigs are festooned with the rather strange looking yellow flowers shown in my photograph. Modern cultivars have extended the range of colours to orange and red. Despite its name the shrub is not related to the European hazel. It got its name from early American settlers who thought the twigs resembled the tree that they remembered from their homelands. The word wych (and witch as it is known in the U.S.A.) comes from the Old English wice meaning pliant. Many people who wouldn't recognise the plant know the name from the medicinal extract widely used for treating bruises, insect bites and other ailments.

My wych hazel grows in a shady corner of my garden, and I managed to photograph it against a dark background to highlight the shape and colour of the flowers. I selected a section of branch and framed it diagonally in the viewfinder.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/25 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:- 0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On