Also called common hazel, this deciduous suckering shrub is a member of the birch family, Betulaceae, that also includes alder and hornbeam. It is native to most of Europe, north Africa, and western Asia where it grew in ancient times in forests on moist lowland soil, often in the shade of deciduous trees, especially oak. Archaeological evidence suggests that large-scale nut processing occurred 9,000 years ago and that the nuts provided a valuable food source for humans. The ancient Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder (died 79 AD), says that it was first introduced into Asia and Greece from Pontus and notes that the nut is protected by a soft beard. He further comments that the nuts were sometimes roasted. The Greek physician and pharmacologist, Dioscoides says that the plant was used medicinally to treat various ailments such as chronic coughing, a cold, and baldness. Carbonized plant material of C. avellana found in the Pompeii area indicates its presence there but evidence for its use in ancient Pompeii is lacking. Photo Credit H. Zell Wikipedia

Corylus avellana (filbert)

Corylus avellana forms a thicket up to 20′ tall and 15′ across and has smooth gray-brown bark and medium green leaves that are 3-6″ long, hairy, rounded, and have doubly serrate margins. In early spring, clusters of male and female flowers appear on the same plant before the leaves emerge. The male flowers are pale yellow gray and are carried in sessile drooping catkins 2-3″ long. The inconspicuous female flowers are held in clusters of 3-5 just above the male catkins and noticeable by their red stigmas. The 1-3″ long fruit is a round edible nut that about 1″ across and is partial enclosed by a husk.

Size: 12-20′ H x 8-15′ W

Light: Full to part shade

Soil: Average, consistently moist, well-drained

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8

 The nuts are used by dormice to fatten up for hibernation and in spring the leaves are a good source of food for caterpillars, which dormice also eat


Modern Uses

Possible health benefits from hazelnut consumption include regulating blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and improving blood sugar and fat levels. Additionally, hazelnuts provide significant amounts of antioxidants which help to protect the body from oxidative stress and cell damage.

By Karen