Common Name hazel
Form shrub or tree
Origin Europe (avellana)
Light sun to part
Whilst Corylus avellana is native here in Europe breeding work still needs to be done for our colder northern latitudes in our minds. It is well worth considering Eastern & central American species, including American Hazel and Beaked Hazel, linked below.
Common hazel is typically a shrub reaching 3–8 m tall, but can reach 15 m in a tree form. The leaves are deciduous, rounded, 6–12 cm long and across, softly hairy on both surfaces, and with a double-serrate margin. The flowers are produced very early in spring, before the leaves, and are monoecious with single-sex wind-pollinated catkins. Male catkins are pale yellow and 5–12 cm long, while female catkins are very small and largely concealed in the buds with only the bright red 1–3 mm long styles visible.
The fruit is a nut, produced in clusters of one to five together, each nut held in a short leafy involucre ("husk") which encloses about three quarters of the nut. The nut is roughly spherical to oval, 15–20 mm long and 12–20 mm broad (larger, up to 25 mm long, in some cultivated selections), yellow-brown with a pale scar at the base. The nut falls out of the involucre when ripe, about 7–8 months after pollination. It is readily distinguished from the closely related filbert (Corylus maxima) by the short involucre; in the filbert the nut is fully enclosed by a beak-like involucre longer than the nut.
Seed is eaten raw or roasted and used in breads, cakes, biscuits, sweets, etc. An excellent nut for raw eating. They can also be liquidized and used as a milk. The nuts are rich in oil. The seed ripens in mid to late autumn and will need to be protected from squirrels if present. When kept in a cool place, and not shelled, the seed should store for at least 12 months. A clear yellow edible oil is obtained from the seed. It is used in salad dressings, baking etc.
The seed contains up to 65% of a non-drying oil, used in paints, cosmetics, etc. The whole seed can be used to polish and oil wood. It is very easy to apply and produces a nice finish. The finely ground seeds are used as an ingredient of face masks in cosmetics. Plants can be grown as a tall hedge. They need to be left untrimmed or only lightly trimmed if seed is required. The bark and leaves are a source of tannin. Wood is soft, easy to split, not very durable but beautifully veined. Used for inlay work, small items of furniture, hurdles, wattles, basketry, pea sticks, etc. The wood also yields a good quality charcoal, used by artists.