Saturday, October 31, 2015


Can you believe this? Flowering in late October, and into November?

I'd like to introduce you to the WITCH ...

Witch Hazel.

Hazel has the distinction of being Michigan's only woody plant which blossoms in late autumn, sometimes after the first snowfall. It is the last flowering plant that Father Nature knows of.

Witch Hazel is a common shrub, or small tree, growing in the understory of other hardwood, deciduous trees. Typically 12 to 20 feet (4 - 7 m.) tall.

Its growth form displays several arching or crooked stems that together produce an irregular, open crown. 

Each clump is one plant. They are slow growing, and moderately shade tolerant.

The leaves are generally oval, with uneven bases, 4 - 6" (10-15 cm) long, and attached to the slender twigs by short petioles. And, as you can see, very conspicuously veined.

The wavy-edged margin is slightly toothed or shallow-toothed. (For the serious Botanists out there: a sinuate-dentated margin) You could also call it scalloped.

The tawny, lateral buds are barely noticeable, being naked, except for two small scales. Terminal buds, at the end of twigs, are slightly larger, and flattened.

Flowers are usually in clusters of three; sometimes four or five. See the four-lobed calyx, and four petals, shaped like tiny, yellow ribbons, each a half-inch (1.5 cm) long.

In the bud, these petals are rolled inward in a tight, close spiral; like a watch spring.

Coiled tightly into a solid, little ball, only a few millimeters in diameter.

After the leaves have fallen, these yellow, starry flowers are more conspicuous, and bring light and warmth to the woods in late Fall.

(Starting to split open)

The nuts, or capsules, require a full year to mature. They are about 1/2" (1.5 cm) long, and covered in a velvety outer husk. These shown above, are just slightly  larger than life size.

(Split open, seeds scattered)

The inner shell is extremely hard and contains two, brown-black seeds. They are polished and smooth. I was unable to find any of these tiny, shiny seeds. Perhaps your kids can crawl around on the forest floor and come up with some. Better yet, prune a few twigs containing these capsules, and take them indoors. When they dry out, if they're mature, they will blast out the seed with amazing force. If you're lucky, you will hear them ricocheting across the counter, or bouncing onto the kitchen floor. In the wild, they are expelled with power; shot out 10 - 20 feet (3-7 m) from the parent plant.

Father Nature did this years ago. If you need some minor entertainment, it works. Maybe the seeds will pop when the kids are quietly doing their homework, like it happened for his kids, back in the day.


Witch Hazel oil, distilled mainly from the twigs, is one of those all-purpose healing remedies legitimized by long tradition if not by medical science. It is still an over-the-counter item in drugstores.

Another ancient tradition is the use of forked Witch Hazel branches as "divining rods" for "water witching". People who believed in its powers swore on its ability to point to underground water, coal, tin, and copper lodes.

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Slender twigs hold clustered blossoms.

Unfolding their bent and wrinkled, strap-like petals...

... into fine, narrow bands.

"In the dusky, somber woodland, thwarting vistas dull and cold,

Thrown in vivid constellations, gleam the hazel stars of gold,

Gracious gift of wealth untold." Anna Botsford Comstock  (1854 - 1930)


Handbook of Nature Study - Anna Botsford Comstock  (Comstock)
Cornell University Press  c 1911, 1939

Michigan Trees - Charles Herbert Otis  (Otis)
 University of Michigan Press  c 1931, 1965

Textbook of Dendrology - William Harlow, & Ellwood S. Harrar  (Dendrology)
McGraw-Hill Co.  c 1937, 1958

The Book of Forest and Thicket - John Eastman  (Eastman)
Stackpole Books  c 1992

Photo Locations:

Home Woods

Egypt Valley State Game Area,  (Egypt Valley)  Kent County,  Michigan (Michigan)

Thursday, October 29, 2015


pebbles of light rain
ping the platter of the lake;
concentric circles

© 2015 Richard Havenga

Photo Location: Pickerel Lake Park -  Kent County, Michigan

Monday, October 26, 2015

Grateful Heart

With a grateful heart,
I have come here to rest,
and let my eyes adjust
to the future
coming at me
in this, my seventh
decade of life
on the good earth.


the desire to know,
and the need to praise;
I have become intimate
with some small pockets
of life on this planet;

nearly forty years
for the love of birds,

intrigued by the flow
of rivers and streams,

a lingering fascination 
with insects,

enchanted by the short seasons
of wildflowers,

a watcher of clouds
for decades,

a dedication
to dependable trees 
- familiar as friends -

and captivated by the
mysteries of the night sky.

How can I help but

praise you God,
for the gift of life,
and thank you
for my remaining days?
© 2015 Richard Havenga

Photo Locations:

1. Prothonotary Warbler - Allegan State Game Area- Kalamazoo River - Michigan

2. Crested ButteColorado  

3. Canon Township - Kent County, Michigan

4. Cardinal Flower - Ada Township - Kent County, Michigan

5. Yosemite National Park - California

6. Grand Teton National Park - Wyoming

7. Grattan Township - Kent County, Michigan

8. Sunset Beach, North Carolina

Thursday, October 22, 2015


bold, screaming Blue Jays
piercing the morning stillness,
searching for acorns

©2015 Richard Havenga

Photo Location: Home Woods - Cannonsburg, Michigan

Monday, October 19, 2015

Saturday Morning Backroads IV

You are reading the fourth edition of "Saturday Morning Backroads".
The first three editions are found as links at the bottom of this post. 
Enjoy the ride. Absorb the views.

Tree line on the horizon
blurred by a band of fog.

Field of ripening soybeans
bronzed in early sun.

Red Maples, like crimson royalty,
crown the lake's edge.

Leaves leaving their home,
coaxed by an autumn breeze.

Tasty globes of juiciness;
Red Delicious ready for harvest.

Virginia Creeper's climbing vines
ornamenting wooden fences.

You may also enjoy these related posts:

Saturday Morning Backroads - June 6, 2012

Saturday Morning Backroads II - October 8, 2014

Saturday Morning Backroads III - July 10, 2015

Photo Locations: Grattan Township - Kent County, Michigan 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015


after autumn rain,
the colors intensify;
a placemat of leaves
© 2015 Richard Havenga

Photo Location

Townsend Park - Kent County, Michigan 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Whisper II

God whispers to me everyday
through his magnificent creation.
I whisper "Thank you God!"
in a sincere voice of elation.
© 2015 Richard Havenga

You may also enjoy: 

Whisper - March 2, 2015

I Whisper - September 3, 2015

Prayers of Gratitude - June 10, 2012

Photo Location:

Monday, October 5, 2015


it's their time again
acorns zipping through oak leaves
gravity bullets

© 2015 Richard Havenga

Photo Locations:

1. Grand Detour, Illinois

2. Townsend Park - Kent County, Michigan 

Thursday, October 1, 2015


seven Sandhill Cranes
thinking about migration
wait for departure
© 2015 Richard Havenga

Photo Locations: Grattan Township - Kent County, Michigan