As I prepare to bring you a series of posts on winter twigs, there is some unfinished twig business from the late fall that I feel compelled to cover first. It is all about the witch-hazel, a small tree or shrub also known as winterbloom, with the unusual habit of flowering after its leaves have dropped in October and November. The unique late-season flowers, with their skinny wrinkled green-gold petals, appear on the exposed winter twigs as early decorations for the holiday season. At the same time that the star-like flowers appear, last year’s fruits have waited a full year to finish turning from flower into seed. With the force of miniature missiles, they eject hard, black seed capsules to distances more than 20 feet away.
Around every corner in our neighborhoods, and around every bend in the trail in the woods or fields, we find exceptions to what our minds want to write as nature’s rules. Trees and shrubs bloom in spring, and offer their fruits the same fall, right? The late-season blooming and year-long ripening of the witch hazel reminds us – once again – to be on the alert for the diverse and clever ways in which lifeforms live among us – and to be ready with doses of curiosity and gratitude for what they teach us.
What issue or problem are you carrying today that the witch hazel might help you resolve by inviting you to think outside the box of your expectations and assumptions?
For those of you who live in and around Madison, Wisconsin, I hope that you’ll check out our year-long study program, Trees as Teachers: Connecting the Wisdom of Self and Nature.