A graceful fall-blooming small tree/tall shrub with a unique floral display.
Zigzagging, spreading branches form an irregular open crown. Most often multi-trunked, with smooth gray bark. Green deciduous leaves have wonderfully wavy margins and turn brilliant gold in fall. Fragrant yellow flowers with four strap-like, crumpled petals appear in the fall, usually after leaf drop, and often are the only sign of color in woods when autumn leaves lay upon the forest floor. Fertilized flowers will form fruit over a long period beginning in winter and into the following growing season. Fruits are greenish seed capsules that become woody with age and mature to a light brown. Dried seed capsules split open in fall, exploding 1-2 black seeds up to 30 feet.
Attracts bees as it provides a much-appreciated late fall floral resource, flies, birds. Hosts more than 60 moth and butterfly caterpillars.
The genus name comes from the Greek words hama meaning “at the same time” and melon meaning fruit. It refers to the fact that the plant can have both flowers and fruits appear at the same time, a somewhat rare feature. A myth of witchcraft held that a forked branch of this plant could be used as a divining rod to locate underground water, thus the common name.
Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils. Best flowering in full sun. Prefers moist, organically rich soils. Tolerant of heavy clay soils, salt, flooding, and moderate drought – great for a rain garden! Promptly remove suckers to prevent colonial spread if desired or allow to grow naturally for a wonderful thicket to provide habitat and food for wildlife. Little pruning is required. Prune in early spring if necessary/desired.
Height: 15-20 ft.
Spread: 15-20 ft.
Growth rate: medium, with height increases of 13–24″ per year
Bloom time: October to December
Sun: full sun to part shade
According to Rutger’s University, H. virginiana are seldom severely damaged by deer.