Friday, April 13, 2007
When and where seen. There are some hazelnut bushes at the edge of the field just beyond the parking lot at the Conant Land, and there are also some along the road at the Banta-Davis Land. The ones at Conant were flowering on March 31 and those at Banta-Davis were out last week after the snow. Last year, plants at both places were still flowering on Marathon Monday. The American Hazelnut is native to North America and can be found from Maine down to Florida.
Identification. American Hazelnut is a multi-stemmed shrub that can get to be 8 to 12 feet tall. The ones at Conant and Banta-Davis are barely five feet tall — shorter than a sandhill crane. (It was April 7, 2005, when the migrating sandhill cranes were seen at the Cranberry Bog.)
The easiest way to recognize the American Hazelnut this time of year is by the catkins, the droopy male flowers, which are brownish-yellow and up to three inches long. These male flowers form in the fall and open in the early spring. The female flowers are not conspicuous but they are worth looking for. They are like tiny sea anemones with intensely red-purple filaments. They are arranged alternately along the twig and sometimes there is one at the tip of the twig. Both male and female flowers are on the same plant. The leaves are ovate to heart-shaped and toothed. The young twigs have a lot of short straight hairs. The nuts grow in clusters of two to four rounded nuts each with bristly bracts.
Habitat. The American Hazelnut likes to grow at woodland edges, along fence rows, in sunny places that are not too wet. It propagates readily from suckers and can form thickets.
Food chain. Hazelnuts are more nutritious than acorns and beechnuts and are attractive to squirrels and a variety of birds, including blue jays, bobwhites, grouse, pheasants and turkeys. In the winter, turkeys and ruffed grouse are known to eat the catkins. Hazelnuts that are cultivated for human consumption are most likely to be from the European Hazelnut, Corylus avellana.
References. Shrub Identification Book by George W. D. Symonds; USDA Plant Guide on American Hazelnut by William S. Justice.
© 2007 The Carlisle Mosquito