Corylus avellana

Family: Betulaceae

Countries: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Corsica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Europe, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Sardegna, Scotland, Sicily, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Wales, Yugoslavia

Corylus avellana is a wonderful shrub or tree that in the UK is commonly known as hazel.  I absolutely adore Corylus avellana, it’s one of my favourite plants; I’d encourage almost anyone to grow this fantastic shrub, tree, or hedge!  A native tree of many countries in Europe, Corylus avellana is a superb plant for a wildlife garden or an edible garden.  Corylus avellana has so much to offer gardeners, including providing us with absolutely delicious hazelnuts!  These plants’ flexible stems can be twisted together make incredibly effective, yet handsome and attractive support frames for herbaceous perennials.  Alternatively, we can use hazel to create structures that sit above our plants that we can top with netting to protect our vegetables and fruit from pests as they grow.  I often use Corylus avellana stems as pea sticks to support my peas.  Taller hazel stems make excellent bean poles for runner beans and can be also used to create wigwams for sweet peas and other climbing plants.  With a supply of hazel you could weave your own hurdles and fencing!

This is such a versatile plant, Corylus avellana can be left unpruned to grow as a specimen tree that could eventually reach the lofty heights of around 10m (33ft), or more.  Why not plant a multi-stemmed Corylus avellana?  Alternatively, Corylus avellana can be coppiced or grown as a hedge; Corylus avellana is happy to be pruned and can easily be contained at a much smaller size.  Corylus avellana plants are monoecious – plants produce both male and female flowers; however, Corylus avellana flowers can only be pollinated by flowers from another plant – therefore two Corylus avellana plants are needed for pollination.  Both plants will produce a harvest of hazelnuts.  Why not grow your own edible hedgerow and combine Corylus avellana with Prunus spinosa and other hedgerow plants that produce edible fruits or nuts?

The Corylus avellana in my picture above is pictured in its autumn dress.  This is a deciduous tree or shrub that produces lovely green rounded, heart-shaped foliage and pretty catkins in springtime.  Corylus avellana trees and shrubs produce hazelnuts in autumn, when the plants’ leaves turn yellow before falling.

Corylus avellana is a fantastic plant to grow to help insects and wildlife.  Birds nest in Corylus avellana shrubs, hedgerows, and trees.  Squirrels are well-known for eating hazelnuts, but these nuts are popular with other small mammals, including Dormice.  Dormice feed on hazelnuts and they also eat the caterpillars that feed on Corylus avellana foliage.  Many caterpillars feed on and rely on a ready supply of Corylus avellana leaves, including the caterpillars of the Angle Shades Moth, Bright-line Brown Eye Moth, the Buff-tip Moth, Clouded Border Moth, Common Emerald Moth, Large Emerald Moth, Little Emerald Moth, Light Emerald Moth, Common Lutestring Moth, the Dot Moth, the Green Silver-Lines Moth, Magpie Moth, Pale Eggar Moth, Pale Tussock Moth, Small White Wave Moth, and the Nut-tree Tussock Moth.  Birds, hedgehogs, and other wildlife also predate upon these caterpillars.

This is a hardy plant that will comfortably survive even the severest of winters in the UK.  Corylus avellana is a robust and hardy plant that thrives in chalk and is happiest growing in loamy, sandy, silty, and clay soils.  Avoid planting in seaside locations or very exposed sites.  Choose a sunny or partially shaded location to plant Corylus avellana; select an area that benefits from moist but well-drained soil.

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