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Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida'

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida'

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' is probably one of the best of many different witch hazels that fill Wisley with delicate fragrance and beautiful, spidery flowers in the winter months. You can find most of these on Battleston Hill, and in the Wild Garden, with a handful at the back of Seven Acres.

Vital statistics

Common name
Hybrid witch hazel
Height & spread
4m (12ft) x 4m (12ft)
Deciduous shrub
Moderately fertile, moist but well-drained, acid to neutral
Full sun or partial shade
Hardy throughout the British Isles


The genus Hamamelis is a group of five or six species of deciduous shrubs grown for their spider-like, fragrant, frost-resistant flowers and autumn leaf colour.

They originate from eastern Asia and North America, in woodlands, woodland margins and along riverbanks. They form deciduous shrubs or small trees with a short trunk, bearing numerous, spreading, crooked branches. At maturity they range from 2-5m (6-16ft) tall. They have thin bark and shallow roots.

The alternate leaves emerge from short-stalked buds. The leaves are elliptic to nearly circular in shape, irregularly toothed along their edges, green in summer and turning yellow and red in the autumn.

After the leaves have fallen, in late autumn and winter, squiggly clusters of fragrant flowers appear, dangling from the bases of the leaf scars. The narrow and crumpled looking petals and sepals (four of each) droop and curl in such a way as to make the blossom look rather like a little yellow octopus.

The fruits that follow are small, hairy, brown, oval capsules. After ripening the following summer, they split open explosively and shoot small, shiny black seeds up to nine metres in all directions. This is the origin of one of the common names, snapping hazel nut.

Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), which is found in the wild only along rocky streams from Missouri to Alabama in the Ozarks, blooms in late winter to early spring. It is an upright shrub that grows to 2m (6ft) tall and has sweet smelling, often reddish tinged blossoms.

The American witch hazels can be confused with two Oriental species commonly grown as ornamentals. One of these is H. japonica from Japan and the other is H. mollis from China. These species have been hybridised to create H. x intermedia.

Hamamelis is the Greek name for a plant with a pear-shaped fruit, possibly the medlar. The twigs are a favourite choice of water-diviners. The bark and twigs of H. virginiana supply the pharmaceutical witch hazel.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida'

This hybrid is of garden origin and is a cross between H. japonica and H. mollis. The name intermedia means intermediate in colour, form or habit.

This large shrub has bright green leaves up to 15cm (6in) long that turn yellow in autumn. In early or midwinter it bears fragrant, yellow, dark red or orange flowers, with crimped petals, on the bare branches.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' bears clusters of large, sulphur-yellow flowers in mid and late winter.


  • Witch hazels make good specimen plants and are also effective in groups in a shrub border.
  • Grow in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained, acid to neutral soil, in full sun or partial shade in a site that is open but not exposed.
  • Pruning requirements are minimal: remove any crossing shoots in late winter or early spring to maintain a permanent, healthy framework.
  • Honey fungus and coral spot may be a problem.


  • Sow seed in containers in a cold frame as soon as ripe. Germination may take a year or more.
  • Graft cultivars in late winter or bud in late summer.


The RHS Woody Plant Committee awarded Hamamelis × intermedia 'Pallida' an Award of Garden Merit and described it as:

"Large deciduous shrub with a spreading crown and broad oval leaves turning yellow in autumn. Flowers bright sulphur-yellow, with relatively broad petals and some scent."

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