Corylus americana (American Hazelnut)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade, sun; moist to dry; open woods, thickets, savanna, prairie|
|Bloom season:||April - May|
|Plant height:||4 to 16 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Slender, pale clusters (called catkins) up to 3 inches long of male pollen-bearing anthers hang from buds on 1-year-old branches. Female flowers are bud-like with a spray of red styles at the tip, on the same branch as male catkins, single in the axils or at the tip of the branch.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are simple and alternate, 2½ to 5 inches long, 1¼ to 3 inches wide, oval-elliptic or widest above the middle, with a long or short taper to a sharply pointed tip and a rounded to somewhat heart-shaped base. Edges are sharply double-toothed and may have a few very shallow lobes on the tip half. The upper surface is dark green and sparsely hairy, the lower is paler than the upper surface and hairy along most veins. Leaf stalks are ¼ to ¾ inch long and covered in a mix of soft, white, non-glandular hairs and bristly, dark, glandular hairs.
Older bark is light grayish brown with scattered white lenticels (pores), initially smooth but eventually developing a criss-cross pattern. Stems are multiple from the base, up to 1 inch in diameter, erect with ascending branches, spreading by rhizomes and may form small colonies or dense thickets.
Fruit is a round nut with a hard shell, 1/3 to ½ inch in diameter, enveloped in a pair of bracts that form a stiff, green husk, with up to 5 nuts in a cluster. The husk is up to twice as long as the nut, jagged and ruffled at the tip, and variously covered in a mix of soft, white hairs and glandular hairs that are often red.
The nuts are very good eating, though smaller than commercially grown hazelnuts (a.k.a. filberts) so it takes a lot to make a handful. It is usually also a race to beat squirrels and other wildlife to the the punch. It strongly resembles the related Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), which lacks glandular hairs on twigs, leaf stalks and husks, and the husks have a distinctive, long beak. The two species' ranges overlap and may be found growing side by side, but Beaked Hazelnut is more common in moister sites and American Hazelnut in drier sites.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- American Hazelnut shrub
- a small thicket of American Hazelnut
- fall color
- fruiting branch
- more leaves
- bristly glandular hairs may be very dense (early spring)
- bristly glandular hairs sometimes sparse (late season)
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Lake Bronson State Park, Kittson County, and in Pine and Ramsey counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?