Winter Bloom

Witch-hazel

Over the past few days, we’ve been enjoying a bout of fine balmy weather, with highs in the sixties. That all changes today, with the thermometer’s bottom dropping out and another winter storm approaching. Still, we enjoyed the warmer weather while it lasted.

Yesterday, we walked around Tower Grove Park. There were quite a few people also in the park, enjoying the fine weather too. Pictured you can see some yellow witch-hazel that was blooming in the park. Is it an early sign of spring or as its nickname might imply, winter bloom, simply just an anomaly? I googled witch-hazel and discovered that is commercially distilled and used as an ingredient in topical therapeutic ointments. For example, it is an ingredient in Preparation H. It is also supposed to have some occult uses. Making it the only pharmaceutical approved by both the FDA and real witches.

The source of the plant’s name isn’t from witchcraft per se. Native Americans are also believed to be the first to show English settlers how to use Y-shaped witch hazel sticks for dowsing, an ancient method for finding underground water. In fact, the name witch hazel is believed to have come from the Middle English “wicke” for “lively” — the dowsing stick bends toward the ground when water is detected below — and “wych,” an Anglo-Saxon word for “bend.”

Witch-hazel is always the first plant to begin flowering around here. Whether it heralds an early spring, I do not know, but I hope so. After, we came home and parked in the driveway, I spied a house fly buzzing around outside the vehicle. I pointed it out to Anne, but she was unimpressed and noted that if your lifespan is only a matter of days, then a few warm weather days are enough to get started.

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