Tree of the Month: American Hazelnut

There are about 20 edible nut species native to Canada. One of them, the American hazelnut is found as an understory plant and at wood edges from southern Manitoba to southwest Quebec, and most of the eastern U.S. It is of the genus Corylus, a member of the Birch family.

The American hazelnut is a multi-stemmed, thicket-forming shrub, 2.5 to 4.5 m (8 to 15 ft) tall. It suckers from its roots and can be 1.5 to3 m (5 to 10 ft) wide. It grows at a moderate to fast rate, can live for many years, and is very adaptable. It does best in full sun, but can tolerant part shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, but can tolerate a range of soil pH and the occasional drought and alkaline soil. Its leaves are simple alternate, 5 to12 cm long and 2.5 to 7 cm wide, egg- to heart-shaped with a pointed tip and toothed edges. The leaves are bright green on top and paler underneath. Fall colour varies from bright yellow to deep wine-red. The bark is gray-brown, fairly smooth, with the outer, thin layer slightly grooved. Hazelnuts have both male and female flowers on the same plant. The female flowers (tiny clusters with pink/red stigma protruding from buds) bloom in early March, and the yellow male flowers (on hanging catkins) open 10 days later. The hard-shelled nuts mature from September to October and appear in clusters of 2 to 6, enclosed in ragged, papery husks.

As an ornamental, the American hazelnut makes a great deciduous screen and looks lovely in the fall. It can be pruned to remove unwanted suckers and maintain a desired size and shape. Wildlife love this shrub. Not only does it provide valuable cover, its nuts attract blue jays, woodpeckers, bobwhites, ruffed grouse, squirrels, and white-tailed deer. The catkins provide winter food for ruffed grouse and white-tailed deer, which also browse on the twigs.


Image Source

Arbor Day Foundation. “American Hazelnut”

Wasowski, Sally & Andy. Wildflower Center Digital Library. “Corylus americana”