Beaked Hazelnut: A Hardy and Nutritious Native Shrub
Beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) is a deciduous shrub that grows throughout most of North America. It belongs to the birch family (Betulaceae) and produces edible nuts that are rich in protein and fat. Beaked hazelnut is named for its distinctive fruit, which has a tubular extension that resembles a beak. In this article, we will explore the characteristics, varieties, uses, and benefits of this native plant.
Characteristics of Beaked Hazelnut
Beaked hazelnut can reach 4 to 8 meters (13 to 26 feet) tall with multiple stems and smooth gray bark. It can also remain small in the shade of other plants. The leaves are green, rounded oval with a pointed tip, and coarsely double-toothed. They have soft and hairy undersides and turn yellow in the fall.
The flowers are inconspicuous and appear in spring. The male flowers are yellow catkins that form in autumn, while the female flowers are red and tiny. The pollination is done by wind, and the fruits mature through the summer. The fruits are nuts enclosed in a husk with a long beak-like projection. The nuts are spherical, small, and hard-shelled. They are edible for humans and animals, and are favored by many wildlife species such as birds, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and foxes.
Varieties of Beaked Hazelnut
There are two varieties of beaked hazelnut, divided by geography:
- Eastern beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. cornuta): This variety is found from southern Canada to Georgia and California. It is a small shrub that grows 4 to 6 meters (13 to 20 feet) tall. The beak of the fruit is longer, 3 centimeters (1 + 1/4 inches) or more.
- Western beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. californica): This variety is found from British Columbia to California and New Mexico. It is a larger shrub that grows 6 to 10 meters (20 to 33 feet) tall. The beak of the fruit is shorter, 2 centimeters (3/4 inch) or less.
Uses and Benefits of Beaked Hazelnut
Beaked hazelnut is a versatile shrub that can be used for various purposes:
- Landscape design: Beaked hazelnut is an attractive shrub that can be used as a filler plant, background shrub, or in naturalized plantings. It can grow well in full sun or full shade, and can tolerate a wide range of soil and moisture conditions. It is also highly pollution-tolerant and drought-tolerant, making it ideal for urban environments.
- Wildlife habitat: Beaked hazelnut provides food and shelter for many wildlife species. The nuts are an important source of protein and fat for birds and mammals, especially during winter. The dense foliage and branches offer cover and nesting sites for birds and small animals.
- Food production: Beaked hazelnut nuts are edible for humans as well as animals. They have a sweet and nutty flavor and can be eaten raw or roasted. They can also be ground into flour or pressed into oil. The nuts are rich in vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, and fiber.
- Medicinal use: Beaked hazelnut has been used by Native Americans for various medicinal purposes. The bark has been used as an astringent, antiseptic, diuretic, and tonic. The leaves have been used as a poultice for wounds, burns, boils, and skin infections. The nuts have been used as a laxative, expect