It was Witch Hazel, a bush often seen in Illinois woodlands, although its Asian relatives grow as ornamental shrubs. The flowers — with four long and twisted petals — bloom in winter or early spring. By fall they’ve ripened into loaded guns, said to shoot their seeds up to 10 meters. The seed capsule above is empty, so the flowers could be safely approached.
The flowers are raggedy, not your classic spring beauties — but in early March you take what you can get!