American Hazelnut, Corylus americana, is a native shrub of Maryland and an important wildlife food source where available.
It is also known as the American Filbert, and is prized by wildlife and people for its small, sweet easy to crack nuts. It is a relatively fast growing shrub of moderate size that can reach a height of about 18 feet and a spread of around 12 feet. This shrub is a valuable wind break or visual screen when grown into hedges. They grow well in full sun to partial shade and thrive well in a variety of soils. A minimum of two shrubs are required for pollination. They produce edible nuts in two to five years, which can be eaten raw or roasted for more flavor.
Several mammals, including squirrels and deer, seek out the nuts. Many birds, such as wild turkey, pheasants, grouse, and quail also feed on the nuts, They are readily consumed by woodpeckers and jays, as well. The male flowers of the Hazelnut are very conspicuous light brown catkins, two to five inches long, appearing in a cluster of two or three on the sides of small branches near the branch tips, opening before the leaves appear. In areas populated by grouse, the male catkins are also a food source during the winter.
The immature hazelnut plants will require protection from deer browsing. Deer will seek out the plants and devour the young tender leaves and stems if not protected by tree shelters or fencing.
The American Hazelnut is a lovely and easy to grow addition to any suitable location. They are sure to attract wildlife and provide a tasty reward for growing them.
Article by Claude Eans, FCFCDB board member
Nature note for 12/5/20