If you are prone to tromping around the woods at this time of year on the Cape you might come across this lovely little tree. It has smooth bark and the stems grow up and out as if forked which is one of the ways it got its common name. The word witch comes from"wych"(not witch) and is actually an old English word describing a stick that has a pair of flexible forked branches. The "Hazel" part of the common name comes from the resemblance the leaves have to those of the hazelnut.Witch hazel is a funny bloomer and not always predictable. Often they will bloom in February if there is a warm spell but some bloom late in the fall and others bloom quite a bit later in the spring.
You can see here that the blossoms have lovely little tendrils.
This tree is quite well known to have medicinal qualities due to the volatile oil content in the bark and wood that also makes it resistant to pests and diseases. Over the years witch hazel has been used to cure or assuage all sorts of ills and can still be found on many drug store shelves as an astringent. It has a sharp, not unpleasant scent.