Identifying deciduous trees and shrubs at this time of year isn’t easy – lots of brown twigs and few clues as to what they are.  Hazel Corylus avellana, however, is an exception.

Hazel is common in hedgerows, and is also found in the understorey of oak woods where it is likely to be coppiced (at least in the past) for making hurdles (fencing), water divining sticks, and furniture, amongst other things.

Corylus avellana
The yellow male catkins of hazel hang free so that the pollen can be shaken out and dispersed by the wind.

Hazel produces flowers early in the season.  In fact, the unopened male catkins can be seen as the leaves turn into their autumn colours, but become really obvious in February-March when they shed their pollen into the wind.

Because the plant is wind-pollinated, the flowers don’t attract many insects – though a few bees do manage to carry off small amounts of pollen.

Corylus avellana 1120271
The red female flowers are tiny, and some hazel bushes don’t seem to have many of them. This is what will develop into hazelnuts later in the year.

There is a lot more information about hazel on the Woodland Trust website.

Only one type of hazel is found growing wild in Britain.  Others, such as Witch Hazel are planted as ornamental species, while Filberts are grown to produce large nuts (cobnuts).

Record your sightings of this plant (and any other species you can see around you – try for a total of five) on the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre recording system (if you are in West Wales) or on iRecord.

 

Other plants seen along a hazel hedgerow today

  • Lesser Celandine
  • Snowdrop
  • Field speedwell
  • Dog’s mercury
  • Primrose
  • Gorse
  • red deadnettle
  • common dog violet
  • barren strawberry