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Woody > Fothergilla > Fothergilla major > Fothergilla major

Fothergilla major

Fothergilla, Witch Adler, Mountain Witch Alder

Origin:  A Scottish physician named Dr. Alexander Garden (1730-1791) who came to Charleston, South Carolina, USA and was a friend and correspondent of the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1178) discovered several 'new' plants in the area. Initially one of these discoveries was named Anamelis since it was related to Hammamelis. However in correspondence with Linnaeus in 1774 the new genus of plant was named Fothergilla in honour of Dr. John Fothergill (1712-1780) an English physician who took part in many scientific discussions with Garden, Linnneaus and the prominent Philadelphia Quaker botanist John Bartram (1699-1777). F. major is generally found in the Piedmont plateau, from northern North Carolina and Tennessee to northern Alabama.
            Mike's Opinion

this is Mike


An outstanding shrub that does not get the attention it deserves and would serve as an excellent border or screen in the landscape. The flowers are displayed as airy bubbles waiting to float away giving the shrub an enchanting feeling. The autumn colour is an added beauty dazzling the eye with hues of yellow, orange and red. Having minimal problems and easy to care for this shrub should be used in residential settings more frequently.

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Shrub (deciduous)
USDA Hardiness Zone
7b - 8a
Canadian Hardiness Zone
RHS Hardiness Zone
H5 (observed growing welling H7)
Temperature (°C)
-15 to -10
Temperature (°F)
5 - 14
1-3 m
1-3 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
A rounded, multi-stemmed shrub with upright growing stems. The honey scented flowers appearing just before or during unfolding of leaves. A colourful display of yellow, orange and red appears in autumn adding a spectrum of colour to any landscape.
Ideally suited for specimen or mass planting in the landscape in place of the many 'exotic' shrubs that are currently underused.
Usually container grown and easy to transplant. It prefers moist, well-drained and acidic soil conditions. Flowers and colours best in full sun; does well in part shade. Avoid planting in soils high in lime content. Slow to establish that thus attention must be paid to its cultural requirements.
A rounded, multi-stemmed shrub with majority of the stems growing upright and with a dense appearance.
ID Characteristic
Rounded or oval shape with dentate margin starting half way up leaf. Have 2 different bud types, vegetative and floral. Terminal bud crescent shaped. Flowers with no petals but composed of many stamens.
The shrub is very disease and pest free.
Ridge tops, river banks and dry slopes in the Allegheny Mountains of the United States.
Bark/Stem Description
Continuous, smooth, grey-brown with dotted lenticels on stem.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
Flower buds are 5 mm long, egg-shaped, hairy and grey brown. Vegetative buds rounded or oval with bud scale scars that fall off early. Terminal bud is largest and crescent shaped.
Leaf Description
Rounded or oval leaf shape, 5-10 cm long, alternate and simple. Dentate margin starts on the upper half of the leaf. Leaf underside has star-like tufts of hairs on veins and covered with a waxy bloom. Leaf colour is blue green to dark green. Prominent leaf venation characteristic of members of the Hammamelidaceae family.
Flower Description
Monoecious, apetalous and white in colour. Plush part of flower made up of numerous stamens that look like airy bottlebrush like spikes, 3-5 cm long and 2-4 cm wide. Set up as dense terminal spikes above foliage. In spring, blooms give off the scent of honey. The flowers and foliage appear concurrently and usually flowers a week later than F. gardenii. Creamy white spent flower stalks which are not unattractive may persist for several months after bloom.
Fruit Description
Dehiscent, enclosed small capsule, 1 cm in length, containing 2 shiny black seeds, the capsule persists throughout the summer.
Colour Description
The blue-green to dark green leaves change to an elegant display of shades of yellow, orange and red usually appearing all on the same leaf. Bark a smooth, grey brown. Flowers are a soft white.
Texture Description
Notable Specimens
A.M. Cuddy Gardens, Strathroy, Ontario, Canada. University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Seeds require double dormancy and pretreatment done in 2 stages. They need 12 months of warm temperatures followed by 3 months at 5°C. Softwood cuttings are gathered in the summer, treated with IBA quick dip and placed in peat/perlite under mist.
Leahy, J. A.; Ani?ko, Dr. Tomasz. 2008. "Wild about Fohergilla". American Nurseryman. May: 16-23.