Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Large Witch-alder - Fothergilla major   (Sims) Loddiges
Members of Hamamelidaceae:
Members of Fothergilla with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Hamamelidales » Family Hamamelidaceae
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Author(Sims) Loddiges
DistributionWidely scattered over most of the Piedmont and the southern half of the Mountains. No records yet for the far northeastern Piedmont counties, nor for Mountain counties north of Madison County. In the Mountains, most records are from the Blue Ridge escarpment (east-facing slopes).

This is a Southern species that ranges north only to northern NC and eastern TN. It reaches south only to northern GA, central AL, and disjunct to AR.
AbundanceRare over its fairly wide range in the state, though locally uncommon in a few areas, such as in the South Mountains (western Piedmont). In most sites where it is found, it does not occur in large stands, and often you may see only a handful to a few dozen plants at the most. This is a State Significantly Rare species, as tracked by the NC NHP.
HabitatUnlike its cousin F. gardenii, which is a wetland species, F. major is distinctly an upland species. It prefers rocky forests, such as on slopes, ridgetop forests, wooded edges of balds or granitic domes, on bluffs, and near rocky creeks. In the eastern half of the Piedmont it prefers cooler sites, such as north-facing bluffs or steep shaded slopes.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, typically as the leaves are emerging; fruits from July to October.
IdentificationThis is a medium-sized shrub growing to about 6-10 feet tall, with deciduous, alternate leaves. It often grows in the same habitats as does the related American Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), and thus care needs to be taken to separate the two. Fothergilla typically has slightly larger and wider, more rotund leaves, to about 3-4 inches long and nearly as wide; both have leaves that contain serrations on the outer half of the leaves. The similarity is removed if and when you see the inflorescence, as Fothergilla blooms in spring with thimble-shaped white flower clusters composed of numerous petal-less flowers with long white stamens. (Hamamelis blooms in late fall and has yellow flowers with very narrow petals.)
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Mountain Witch-alder, Large Fothergilla, Tall Fothergilla
State RankS3
Global RankG3
State StatusSR-T [W1]
US Status
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B.A. SorrieBlack Ankle Bog, late Apr 2022. MontgomeryPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieOcconeechee Mountain SNA.
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