Hazel Trees

Published January 31, 2019
Trees in Filbert Orchard

Considered a wild child of sorts in the world of arboriculture, the Hazel tree features an eye-catching network of branches. The tree's unique shape attracts hordes of homeowners looking to spruce up their yards with a little something different. The ornamental tree also bears nuts called filberts and elongated flowers that can make an ordinary garden pop.

Appearance of the Tree

Hazel trees typically take two forms-large shrubs or small trees which generally grow 12 to 20 feet tall.

Regardless of its height, the Hazel tree has a number of distinguishing characteristics, including:

  • Roots: Some of the Hazel tree's roots protrude to the soil's surface and branch into fine lines forming a thicket.
  • Flowers: Male flowers, called "catkins" are yellowish-brown, about two inches long and pendant-shaped. Female blooms are tiny bud-like tufts and barely recognizable.
Common Hazel Catkins
  • Fruit: The inconspicuous female flowers eventually grow into small nuts called "filberts." The nuts are housed in a hairy, leaf-like husk with ragged edges.
  • Leaves: The Hazel's simple, oval-shaped, dark green leaves have serrated edges. The leaves turn a fiery red or yellow color during the fall.
Hazel Tree Leaf

Hazel Tree Types

Hazel trees are part of the genus Corylus which includes nearly 20 different specimens. The deciduous tree is a landscaper's dream in that it is attractive and fits well into most green spaces. In addition, most types also yield delicious nuts that can be eaten raw or cooked.

Among the most popular types of Hazel trees are:

  • Harry Lauder's Walking Stick: Also known as the Corkscrew Hazel, the tree grows extensively in Europe and features an attractive rounded canopy and a maze of twisted and spiraling branches. The tree grows to about 10 feet tall, though most are pruned to a more manageable size to highlight its one-of-a-kind shape. While it produces the same catkins as its cousins, the Corkscrew Hazel does not bear nuts.
Corkscrew Hazel branches
  • American Hazelnut: This shrub-like green is native to the United States and rarely grows taller than 10 feet tall. The woody specimen sports a large girth of branches. The tree's nuts, which change from a light green color to brown, emerge in July and August and are ready to be harvested in September and October.

Another popular Hazel tree type that is prized for its ornamental value is the Corylus Pendula which features a cascade of weeping branches. The tree's ornate branch configuration makes the Hazel appear as though it is arching.

The Many Looks of the Hazel Tree

Hazel trees in winter closeup of hazelnuts
Hazel handicraft feature Old hazelwood panels
Hazelnuts in bowl closeup Hazelnut on tree

Where the Hazel Grows

The Hazel tree grows naturally throughout the world, including:

  • Great Britain
  • Scandinavia
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • Morocco
  • Algeria
  • Africa
  • Turkey
  • Iran
  • Central and Northern Asia
  • North America

In the United States, you can find the Hazel prospering in Maine, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Georgia and along the Gulf Coast. The tree prefers soil that is moist and well drained. In addition, Hazels thrive in partial to full sunlight. It can tolerate dry soil as long as it the dirt is fertile.

Hazelnuts with leaves

Popular Uses

Hazel trees have two major uses:

  • Nuts: Filberts or hazelnuts are cultivated and eaten raw, roasted or ground into flour and added to a number of breads and desserts. The nuts can also be used as a topping for soups and salads. Filberts are an outstanding source of Vitamin E and B, as well as folate, which helps rebuild damaged cells. Oils from the nuts are extracted and used as an emollient in a number of beauty products.
  • Wood: The tree's smooth, reddish-brown wood is highly prized for its durability and elasticity. The timber is used to create a myriad of items, including:
    • Walking sticks
    • Basketball hoops
    • Fishing rods
    • Baskets
    • Tool handles
    • Shepherds' crooks

Hazel tree wood also yields excellent charcoal from which gunpowder and crayons are made.

Interesting Facts

History is peppered with references to the Hazel tree, including:

  • Grimm's Fairy Tales claims branches from the Hazel tree are the greatest protection humans have from snakes and other creatures that creep along the ground.
  • Celts and Druids believed that hazelnuts were a source of wisdom and the tree itself was sacred.
  • In Greek mythology, hazel branches were woven into headpieces and worn to protect warriors from evil.
  • Irish folklore states that drinking hazelnut beverages helped develop prophetic powers.

Hazel trees should not be harvested until their sixth growing season. A healthy tree can remain fruitful until well into its fortieth year of life.

Hazel Diseases

Hazel trees are durable and typically don't fall victim to epidemics. However, there are a few diseases that the tree is particularly susceptible to, including:

  • Crown Gall: This disease causes the formation of round wart-like galls to form on the tree's lower branches.
  • Twig Blight: This fungal disease attacks the tree's twigs; though, if left untreated, the blight will cause damage to the Hazel's leaves and lead to premature leaf drop.
  • Powdery Mildew: This disease appears as a white coating on the top of the leaves. In severe cases, the leaves will turn yellow and drop before autumn.

Occasionally, pests, such as leafhoppers and caterpillars will attack the Hazel tree and damage its leaves and twigs.

Diseased Hazel Leaf

Hazel Care

Hazel trees do not require a lot of extra care to grow. These simple tips will help keep your tree prospering for years to come:

  • Plant the tree in moist, well-drained soil.
  • Remove rocks or other obstructions as the tree's roots often skim the surface of the soil.
  • Keep pruning to a minimum if you want to take advantage of the tree's naturally crooked shape.
  • Hazels need full sunlight in order to thrive. If you are planting the tree among taller specimens, be sure the sun's rays are able to penetrate through the group and reach the Hazel tree.
  • If your Hazel tree is floundering in its current location, test the soil. Hazel trees prefer soil that is slightly acidic.

Growing Hazel Nut Trees

The Hazel tree is an iconic historical symbol used by many cultures for protection and even developing psychic abilities. If you choose to grow this tree, you'll gain a tree with a large canopy and an annual harvest of delicious nuts.

Hazel Trees