My youngest brother was born when I was 8, almost 9-years-old. I was old enough to remember the days leading up to his birthday and his first days home from the hospital. He was born in the middle of of February and brought so much light and joy to my family that winter.
Humans, of course, can come into the world at any time of the year. In the rest of the natural world, though, many plants and animals have more seasonal birth and growth cycles. Where I live in the Northeast, it’s easiest to see plants come to life in April or May when most of their flowers bloom. February still feels cold and snowy, but if we look closely we can see that spring is closer than we think.
One of our first signs of spring are crocuses. Crocuses are bulbous plants that are often visible in February as the winter ground starts to thaw.
Another early sign of spring is witch hazel in bloom. The witch hazel that is native to this region, Hamamelis virginiana, has yellow flowers that bloom in the fall, but the Chinese and hybrid garden varieties bloom around February and March. These vernal witch hazels have fragrant flowers that range in color from yellow to deep red and act as early pollen sources for bees and flies.
Witch hazel is important to us as humans, too. The bark, twigs and leaves have medicinal properties, and witch hazel is a common ingredient in skin care and gentle home cleaning products.
At home I use scented spray that’s powered by witch hazel, the plant with the delicate winter blooms. Click here for the recipe.