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Fothergilla major

(Large Fothergilla)


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Threat status

Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Danish:

Stor Troldel

Common Names in English:

Large Fothergilla, Mountain Witch-Alder, Mountain Witchalder, Witch Alder, Witch-Alder

Common Names in Finnish:



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Family Hamamelidaceae

Shrubs or trees , evergreen or deciduous, hermaphroditic , andromonoecious, or monoecious. Indumentum usually of stellate hairs or stellate or peltate scales . Buds perulate or naked. Leaves distichous or spiral , rarely subopposite or opposite, stipules minute to large, usually paired (solitary and enclosing bud in Mytilaria, and apparently absent in Rhodoleia) ; petiole usually well defined; leaf blade simple or palmately lobed , pinnately veined or palmately 3 5-veined. Inflorescences usually spikes or heads , rarely racemes or (condensed) thyrses or panicles, axillary or terminal . Flowers small to medium-sized, bracteate and often bracteolate , bisexual or unisexual , actinomorphic or rarely zygomorphic (Rhodoleia), hypogynous to epigynous , floral cup shallow to urn-shaped, sometimes absent; sepals 4 or 5( 10), sometimes absent, imbricate, usually persistent ; petals absent or 4 or 5, yellow, white, greenish or red, often ribbonlike and circinate in bud, caducous ; stamens 4, 5, or many, free , rarely arranged in 2 whorls with the inner whorl staminodal, development of polyandrous androecia centripetal or centrifugal ; anthers basifixed , thecae mostly bisporangiate , each opening by two valves or a simple longitudinal slit, or monosporangiate and opening by a single valve (Exbucklandia, Hamamelis and the genera of the S hemisphere), connective protruding; disk scales sometimes present between stamens and carpels. Ovary 2-locular, carpels free at apex; ovules mostly 1 per carpel, less often many, but then most of them sterile , crassinucellar, bitegmic, anatropous , halfway between apotropous and epitropous , pendent from ovary top if solitary, along the carpellary margins if numerous ; placentation axile . Styles and stigmas 2. Fruit a capsule, dehiscing septicidally, septifragally, or loculicidally and 4-valved; endocarp woody or leathery, usually loose from leathery exocarp . Seeds 1 to many per carpel; if solitary then seed coat thick, hard, smooth and shiny, black or brown; if numerous then sometimes winged and only a few viable. Endosperm thin; embryo straight; cotyledons leaflike, radicle short.

About 30 genera and 140 species: E and S Africa (including Madagascar), E, W, and SE Asia, NE Australia, Central, North, and South America, Pacific Islands; 18 genera (four endemic) and 74 species (58 endemic) in China.

Several genera and species need critical revision .[1]

Genus Fothergilla

Shrubs , usually multitrunked, from short stolons, often forming dense clumps , not aromatic or resinous ; twigs , leaves, and flower buds stellate-pubescent. Bark light gray on mature branches, smooth . Dormant buds naked, densely stellate-pubescent; terminal bud short-stalked or sessile, with 2-4 subtending scales . Leaves short-petiolate. Leaf blade elliptic to obovate to oblong , ovate , to nearly orbiculate, unlobed, pinnately veined, base oblique , cuneate, truncate to rounded , margins transparent, crenate or serrate-dentate, occasionally undulate to entire, apex rounded to acute. Inflorescences terminal, elongate , many flowered, dense spikes, sessile or short-pedunculate. Flowers bisexual , fragrant, basal flowers functionally staminate , appearing before leaves; calyx lobes 5-7(-9), erect , minute, irregular, forming shallowly campanulate hypanthium with adnate androecium; sepals connate ; petals absent; stamens 12-32, conspicuous , in centrifugal sequence on rim of hypanthium; filaments white, 4-17 mm, conspicuous, the longest somewhat club-shaped distally; anthers dehiscing by 2 flaps; staminodes absent; ovary adnate to hypanthium, ca. 1/3 its length ; styles 2, becoming hornlike, with recurved tip . Capsules in groups of more than 3, stylar beaks prominent , appressed stellate-pubescent mixed with longer , straight hairs on calyx rim and distally, loculicidal. Seeds 2 per capsule, reddish brown, glossy, bony, not winged . x = 12.

Species 2: temperate regions , e North America.

The species of Fothergilla are spring-flowering shrubs with inflorescences of apetalous flowers and heads of showy white stamens. Both species are in cultivation. The relationship of Fothergilla to other genera of the Hamamelidaceae is unclear. The genus is restricted to the southeastern United States.[2]

Physical Description

Species Fothergilla major

Shrubs , 7-65 dm; branches robust . Leaves: stipules 2.8-7(-10.2) mm; petioles 3-10(-18) mm. Leaf blade broadly elliptic or somewhat orbiculate to obovate , asymmetric , 2.5-13.5 × 4.2-12.5 cm, base rounded to truncate , rarely cuneate, often oblique , proximal margins entire, distal margins coarsely sinuate to repand , rarely entire, apex short-acuminate to rounded and mucronate ; surfaces abaxially glaucous or green, adaxially green, both surfaces stellate-pubescent or nearly glabrous ; veins (4-) 5-6(-7) pairs. Inflorescences nearly sessile to short-pedunculate, 3-6 × 2-3 cm. Flowers : calyx lobes persistent in fruit; stamens (10-) 22-34; filaments 6-17 mm. Fruiting spikes 3.5-7 × 1.5-2.5 cm. Capsules 5.5-13 mm. Seeds 5-6(-8) mm, apex pointed . 2 n = 72. [source]

The disjunct occurrence of Fothergilla major in Arkansas is a recent discovery. [source]

Habit: Round , multi-stemmed deciduous shrub .

Flowers: Fragrant white flowers April-May. • Bloom Period: February, March, April, May. • Flower Color: near white, white

Foliage: Summer foliage: Blue-green leaves. • Fall foliage: Orange and scarlet.


Size: 6' tall and as wide.


Bluffs , dry rocky woodlands, talus slopes , riverbanks, upper piedmont to mountains; 150-1300 m [3].

Zone 5.


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Culture: Space 4-6' apart.

Soil: Well-drained with organic matter. • Minimum pH: 5.6 • Maximum pH: 6.5

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b. (map)


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Fothergilla monticola Ashe


Publishing author : Lodd. Publication : Bot. Cab. i. 1520

Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 15-Mar-2000

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Fothergilla

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 13 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

F. gardenii (Dwarf Fothergilla) · F. gardenii 'Blue Mist' (Blue Mist Dwarf Witch Alder) · F. gardenii 'Harold Epstein' (Dwarf Fothergilla) · F. gardenii 'Jane Platt' (Dwarf Fothergilla) · F. gardenii 'Mt. Airy' (Mt. Airy Fothergilla) · F. gardenii 'Windy City' (Fothergilla) · F. major (Large Fothergilla) · F. major 'Blue Shadow' (Blue Shadow Witch Alder) · F. major 'Mt. Airy' (Mount Airy Fothergilla) · F. major 'Sea Spray' (Large Fothergilla) · F. mirabilis (Camasey Cuatrocanales) · F. monticola (Alabama Fothergilla) · F. 'Mt. Airy' (Large Fothergilla)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 21, 2007:



  1. Zhi-Yun Zhang, Hongda Zhang & Peter K. Endress "Hamamelidaceae". in Flora of China Vol. 9 Page 18. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  2. "Fothergilla". in Flora of North America Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  3. "Fothergilla major". in Flora of North America Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
Last Revised: 2014-12-02