Last weekend, Justin Thomas and I took a trip to Rocky Falls near Eminence in Shannon County, Missouri. Although this picturesque winter Ozark scene would have been worth the trip in itself, we had but one goal in mind.
That goal was to find a flowering plant in the depths of winter. In most years, the first flowering plant that I see in the new year is a non-native lawn species, such as a common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) or a speedwell (Veronica spp.). Not so this year, thanks to Justin.
This is Ozark Witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis), nearly an Ozark endemic shrub, known from but five states in the country with by far most of its occurrences in the Ozarks of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Unlike the similar Eastern Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana), which has a widespread distribution throughout the eastern half of the United States and which flowers from October to December, Ozark Witchhazel blooms from January to April. Whereas Eastern Witchhazel grows in moist woods, on wooded slopes, and in wooded valleys along streams, Ozark Witchhazel is at home in rocky areas along streams and in streambeds.
A nice treat for a January day.