Alien Finger Flowers

Have you seen this flower?

This week I want to talk about one of the COOLEST flowers I've ever seen.  It's one of the first spring flowers.  And it looks so weird!  Check out this picture...I spotted the first of the season 2 weeks ago in a garden near Commercial Drive.  Maybe you can see why I call it Alien Finger Flower?  Each flower has 4 thin, stingy, pedals.Can you tell what it is yet?  Have you seen it around?  I'll offer a couple of clues ... it's not a plant native to the Northwest.  It's a shrub/small tree with many stems/thin trunks come out of the same root.  guesses yet?Ok, last clue.  You'll get it this time... mouthwash.  Yep, it's Witch Hazel - Hamamelis spp. (spp. means "species non-specific").  The common species is the Eastern variety - Hamamelis virginia.  But the most common one around Vancouver is Japonese Witch hazel - H. japonica.I use 'witch' ever Witch hazel I can get my hands on!  (have i mentioned that I like word play and puns?!)Medicinally, I use it for its astringent properties.  Truthfully, I don't use it very often because it's not very common in these parts.  You'll notice that I use almost exclusively local plants that I harvest myself.  The process of gathering herbs and making medicines with my own 2 hands is VERY important to me.  It's about the most empowering experience I've ever had.  That's why so much of the teaching of the Urban Herb School is based around plant ID and gathering.On this note, I'll take a moment to send a special thanks to 7song of the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine where I learned botanical identification and wild-crafting..For a materia medica (medicinal properties and uses) of Witch hazel, check out the Henriette's Herbals (she's in the Northeast where Witch hazel lives too) or dig around the site for Southwest School of Botanical Medicine (this is a ridiculously valuable site!!).So, that's it for this week's Have You Seen This Plant.  Check back next week for ... I don't know yet... some other delightful plant that's caught my eye or heart or interest or all of the above.