Featured Plants -
rare spring-flowering shrub is known
botanically as Fothergilla gardenii
Linnaeus. It is in the witch-hazel family,
Hamamelidaceae, along with Hamamelis
(witch-hazel) and Liquidambar (sweetgum).
is a rather inconspicuous, thicket-forming,
colonial shrub, usually rooting where the stem
touches the ground. Its alternate deciduous
leaves are about 2-6 cm long and may have
shallow lobes or teeth along their margins,
especially in the upper 2/3 of the leaf blade.
The young leaves and stems are densely covered
with star-shaped hairs; as they age, the stems
and upper surfaces of the leaf blades may lose
spring witch-alder becomes conspicuous when it
produces its white bottle-brush-like flower
spikes at the tips of its branches before its
leaves expand. The sepals and petals are small
and inconspicuous and the many stamens are
white and stick out from the short floral
tube. After flowering the carpels begin to
swell within the floral tube and short, beaked
capsules are produced. The elongate, dark,
shiny seeds are produced 2 per capsule.
for witch-alder in mid to late March when it
can be found flowering on the edges of
sphagnum swamps and bogs in Gadsden, Okaloosa
and Walton Counties, northwest Florida.
Because this species grows in wetlands it is
listed as FACW in Rule 62-340, Florida
is restricted to the coastal plain of the
southeastern United States. It is uncommon to
locally common throughout its range, which
includes southeast Alabama, southeastern
Georgia and scattered areas in North and South
Carolina, as well as northern Florida. Fothergilla
is unique to southeastern North America. It
has two species, F. gardenii and F.
are two other shrubs in north Florida that may
be confused with witch-alder in the field. Alnus
serrulata or hazel alder (page 347,
Betulaceae, in Florida Wetland Plants, An
Identification Manual, 1998) has larger
leaves, 5-10 cm long, with wavy, finely
toothed margins. Hamamelis virginiana
or witch-hazel is a non-wetland plant that has
similarly shaped leaves, but these have wavy
or undulate margins and may be rough on the
includes Fothergilla parvifolia Kearney,
F. carolina (Linnaeus) Britton. F.
alnifolia L. f. is an illegitimate name.
Listed by R. K. Godfrey (Trees, Shrubs, and
Woody Vines of Northern Florida and Adjacent
Georgia and Alabama, 1988) and others as
Fothergilla gardeni Murray.
leaves and fruit illustrations (Drawn
by John David Tobe)