Hamamelis japonica Sieb. & Zucc.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Hamamelis japonica' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/hamamelis/hamamelis-japonica/). Accessed 2024-06-14.

Common Names

  • Japanese Witch-Hazel


Sharply pointed.
(pl. calyces) Outer whorl of the perianth. Composed of several sepals.
globularSpherical or globe-shaped.
midveinCentral and principal vein in a leaf.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Hamamelis japonica' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/hamamelis/hamamelis-japonica/). Accessed 2024-06-14.

A deciduous, spreading shrub or small tree, often sparsely branched; the quite young twigs furnished with stellate hairs. Leaves oval, ovate or obovate, 2 to 312 in. long, 114 to 212 in. wide, with wavy margins, base unequal and some-times slightly heart-shaped; the five to eight pairs of parallel veins run forward at an acute angle from the midrib; lower surface densely covered when young with down which mostly falls away by autumn; stalk 14 to 34 in. long, downy. Flowers yellow, slightly scented, produced a few together in globose heads during January and February on the then leafless twigs made the previous summer; petals 23 in. long, very narrow, strap-shaped, and much crumpled; calyx-lobes, downy outside, red, reddish-brown or greenish inside.

Native of Japan. This is one of the most beautiful of winter or early spring-flowering shrubs. It flowers freely, and its thin wrinkled petals make a very pretty picture at the inclement season when they appear, especially if the shrub has a dark background of evergreens. The species is a somewhat variable one, the shrub grown in gardens as H. japonica is a flattish, widespreading shrub.


Petals pale yellow, about {3/8} in. long, very crumpled. Calyx red on the inside. A.M. Jan. 21, 1958. Raised by Messrs Russell of Windlesham.

var. arborea (Mast.) Gumbleton

H. arborea Ottolander ex Mast.
H. japonica var. rubra Kache

This is not a very well-marked variety. Masters, describing H. arborea (Gard. Chron. (Feb. 7, 1874), p. 187), said it was being offered under that name by the nurseryman Ottolander of Boskoop (who received his stock from Siebold) and also by Cripps’s nursery, Tunbridge Wells. The flowers were described as rich primrose, with the calyx of a deep claret colour. A few years later (in 1881) Veitch’s nursery received a First Class Certificate for a hamamelis under the name H. arborea in which the leaves were narrower than in the plant described by Masters, the petals less crumpled, and golden yellow. This is the plant figured in Bot. Mag., t. 6659, and was probably introduced by Veitch directly from Japan. No doubt many other slightly differing forms have been raised. The plants cultivated under the name H. japonica var. arborea grow taller than what is considered to be typical H. japonica and have a deeper coloured calyx, but it is doubtful if the distinction is worth maintaining or even valid. The plants originally distributed as H. japonica are no more typical than those called var. arborea.

var. flavopurpurascens (Mak.) Rehd.

H. obtusata f. flavopurpurascens Mak.
H. incarnata Mak.
H. obtusata Mak. (nom. illegit .)
H. japonica var. obtusata (Mak.) Ohwi
H. japonica var. rubra Hort. ex Bean, not Kache

This witch-hazel was shown in flower as “H. japonica rubra” at one of the early spring shows of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1919, which was the first time I had seen it. It differs from ordinary H. japonica in the petals being suffused with dull red, giving them a rather indeterminate hue; the calyx is dark purple inside. It appears to be wild in several provinces of Japan: Oshima, Musashi, Mutsu, etc., having been collected in the last-named as long ago as 1880. To my taste, the red suffusion in the petals rather spoils, than improves, the clear yellow of the type. It was described as a new species by Mr Makino in the Tokyo Botanical Magazine for 1913, under the name H. incarnata. Whilst it does not seem likely that the world contains another hamamelis that would be as distinct from mollis and japonica as they are from each other, probably slightly varying forms of H. japonica will continue to appear.To the above, which is taken unchanged from previous editions, it should be added that the plant shown in 1919 as H. japonica rubra may be the same as the variety distributed by Chenault of Orleans before 1915, as H. zuccariniana rubra. The name H. japonica rubra was given by Kache in 1919 to a plant with yellow petals and a deep red calyx.


The plants cultivated under the name H. japonica zuccariniana are probably all of a single clone, characterised by the pale lemon-yellow flowers borne towards the end of the witch-hazel season (late February and March) and the greenish inside of the calyx. It is of erect habit when young, broadening later, and attains about 15 ft in height. The flowering branch depicted in Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 420, came from one of several plants growing in Windsor Great Park.