Distylium racemosum (Evergreen Witch Hazel)

Distylium racemosum Shrub

I, KENPEI, Distylium racemosum5, CC BY-SA 3.0

What is Distylium racemosum?

Also known as Isu tree, the Evergreen Witch Hazel or Winter-hazel, Distylium racemosum is a shrub and a medium-sized tree. Although Distylium growth rate is slow, it can grow up to 3m in height. It is a hermaphrodite plant that buds leaves in January, starts flowering in March to April (spring) and matures with ripe seeds in June all the way to August.

Distylium racemosum belongs to the Hamamelidaceae family. The genus Distylium has about 18 plant species, including racemosum, chinense, dunnianum,  gracile, chungii, tsiangii, myricoides, buxifolium, etc. The plant is native to southeastern and eastern Asia, including Korea, Japan and China.

Although 12 species are only found (endemic) in China, four are commercially available. They include: the Blue Isu Tree, Isu Tree, racemosum and myricoides. Winter-hazel has multiple stems and thus spreads widely. It has small, red flowers with stamens, but no petals. The evergreen leaves are glossy and leathery. Unlike the myricoides species, racemosum blooms much later.

Distylium myricoides has dark-to-blue-green leaves that grow up to 1 1/4 inches wide and 4 inches long. The plant species has a beautiful, layered look. On the other hand, the leaves of the racemosum species can grow up to 1.5 inches wide and 2.75 inches long.

A Mature Distylium racemosum Tree

A Mature Distylium racemosum Tree

I, KENPEI, Distylium racemosum6, CC BY-SA 3.0


The Winter-hazel grows in hardiness zones 7 to 10. It thrives in well-drained, medium-loamy and lightly sandy soils with neutral, acidic or alkaline pH values. Distylium can also grow in moist, humus-rich soils under light, semi-shaded woodland ecosystems.

The plant is tolerant to lime and cold, but susceptible to frost damage. The Evergreen Witch Hazel can be propagated from seeds and cuttings. The seeds are planted in a cold frame. However, seeds from storage might require cold stratification for 2 to 3 months before being planted.

Distylium racemosum seeds can take 2 to 3 months to germinate under temperatures of 15 0C. Cuttings can be made from July to August when the woods are partly ripe for propagation. Although cuttings from mature woods can be propagated after layering, they take longer to grow.

The plant fully matures in 30 years and requires protection from strong winds. It also requires pruning to facilitate growth and give it a beautiful shape. Well-pruned Distylium racemosum plants beautify landscapes.

Uses of Distylium racemosum

Porcelain is often glazed using wood ashes of the Winter-hazel plant. The dark-brown wood is hard and has fine grains, hence its use in making musical instruments, small articles, etc. Furthermore, the plant is used as a landscape plant for its attractive appeal when pruned.

Are you looking for a landscape plant to spruce up your outdoor space? We have planters and raised beds you can use to start your seeds.