Hamamelis mollis

Chinese witchhazel is native to southeastern China. Its family, the Hamamelidaceae or witchhazel family, has a curious distribution from a biogeographic viewpoint (map). If you’re a long-time BPotD reader, you’ll remember that the biogeographical link between plant families of southeast Asia and North America is well-established (see this entry). The distribution across southern Asia into Europe is also understood (and easy enough to imagine). However, the presence of the family in southeastern Africa and Madagascar is a bit of a headscratcher to me. While digging around, I reviewed the paper from the entry on another hamamelid, Disanthus cercidifolius (Li et al. 1999. Phylogenetic relationships of the Hamamelidaceae inferred from sequences of internal transcribed spacers (ITS) of nuclear ribosomal DNA. Am. J. Bot. 86:1027-1037). As it turns out, there is not enough evidence (yet) to clearly understand the biogeography of southern hemisphere Hamamelidaceae, so it remains a puzzle for now.

Two other links to add: 1) Hamamelis mollis interpretative sign at UBC Botanical Garden; and 2) Great Plant Picks shrub selections, which include a link to a PDF profile about this plant.

Botany resource link: The Parasitic Plant Connection by Dr. Dan Nickrent of Southern Illinois University. Scroll down the page for links to pages on parasitic plant families.

Hamamelis mollis

6 responses to “Hamamelis mollis”

  1. Knox Henry

    Hi Daniel:
    Each day I eagerly look forward to this website. It is interesting, informative and well-done with a wealth of information both attached and referenced.
    Did you get an opportunity to wander into the winter garden and check if the bark peeling on the Prunus serrula is only in one direction?
    Thanks for providing such an excellent source of horticultural information. I must find out about sending a financial contribution to the UBC Botanical Garden in appreciation.
    Knox Henry

  2. chris

    lokking at your map at, http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb/orders/saxifragalesweb.htm#Hamamelidaceae
    it occurs to me the distribution (that you puzzle over) nicely follows the old “trade routes”, both overland and by sea.
    sailors most certainly would have put to port to stock up before navigation around the cape of good hope, bartering with any product on board. where man goes he leaves stuff.

  3. Beverley

    Hamamelis mollis – Z6 – RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths
    Hamamelis mollis – Z5-9 – A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Brickell, Cole, Zuk

  4. Ron B

    This book contains a survey of witch hazels, recommended cultivar list.
    Same publisher also offers a witch hazel monograph, which I have not seen yet.

  5. Daniel Mosquin

    Knox, thanks for the kind words and kind offer. I’ll be in touch. I haven’t had a chance to check the Prunus serrula yet as I’m working on a project with a strict deadline, so no wanderings for me!
    chris, your suggestion would possibly apply if we were trying to figure out an explanation for the distribution of a single species that could possibly live and thrive in those disparate environments (though I suspect you would also see presence throughout the Mediterranean and western Europe). I did neglect to mention in the entry (though it alludes to it in the paper) that the hamamelids in Africa are not a single or few introduced species, but rather lineages that have been there for tens of millions of years.
    I find biogeography particularly difficult to wrap my head around because of the time-space element. As an example, the earliest fossil evidence of a hamamelid is from 90 million years ago in present day New Jersey: Zhou et al. 2001. The earliest fossil evidence of the Hamamelidaceae: Late Cretaceous (Turonian) inflorescences and fruits of Altingioideae. Am. J. Bot. 88:753-766. A map of the world from 90mya roughly resembles present day, although there is no Atlantic Ocean to speak of, Australia has yet to split from Antarctica and parts of many continents are submerged (e.g., northern Africa). Yet, despite occurring in what is now North America 90mya, it is possible that two (and maybe all three) out of the three present-day North American genera emigrated from southeast Asia during the Miocene (24.6mya to 5mya).
    Beverley and Ron, thanks as always.

  6. Jean Elliot

    Where can I find a hamamelis mollis? I live in Nelson BC

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