Today, lets talk about a shrub I doubt you have found in the garden center, nurseries or other stores you usually buy your plants in, the American Hazelnut.
That does not mean you shouldn’t be adding it to your landscape. Especially if you are trying to create a garden sanctuary not only for you, but also for the wildlife we share our land with. Here are some of the reasons you should consider our obscure shrub:
- It provides a variety of wildlife food and shelter.
- It is a native to much of the US.
- It’s Fall color is an attractive yellow to orange to copper color.
- It has no serious disease or pests.
One more thing, it is a long-lived and productive edible nut bearing shrub!
Pronounced: KOR-rill-us uh-mair-rick-KAY-
The American Hazelnut is a relative rarity in garden and landscape settings. This shrub should be a staple wildlife garden plant in natural style gardens due to its excellent wildlife value, reliability and attractiveness.
It is also one of the few nut bearing native shrubs and is an excellent addition to your diet!
The American Hazelnut has been found in all counties of my state and probably a few of yours.
Habitats that the American Hazelnut grow in include upland forests, moist to dry-mesic woodlands, savannas and sandy savannas, moist to dry-mesic prairies and sand prairies, as well as fence rows.
American Hazelnut Wildlife Value:
A lot of different insects feed on the leaves, nuts, and stems of the American Hazelnut. These include leaf beetles, walking sticks, plant bugs, leafhoppers, moth caterpillars (including the Luna Moth (Actias luna).
The nuts are eaten by a variety of birds including Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Quail, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, and my favorite bully, the Blue Jay. Even the male flowers and buds of American Hazelnut are an important source of winter food during for the Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey.
The list of mammals that eat the nuts include the Grey, Red and Fox Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk, and White-Footed Mouse. Deer and rabbits will chew on the browse on the twigs and leaves also, but usually don’t due ornamental damage to the plant due to its thick shrubby habit. Beavers will use it if it is grown near water.
Due to the American Hazelnut’s dense branching structure and large leaves, it provides excellent cover and ideal nesting habitat for many birds.
American Hazelnut Landscape value
American Hazelnuts are great plants for natural hedgerows as well as spacing throughout the nature inspired garden. They provide a medium leaf texture with a crisp green color that changes to an attractive yellow to orange in Autumn.
While they are not specimen shrubs, they are great filler plants that add that all important green color to the landscape. They are long-lived plants that have been known to live well over forty years. You will not want to site them in wet soil unless you want them to sucker a lot and spread.
Soil and Water Conservation district sales in early Spring are a great way to find cheap although usually very small plants.
Even plants started from seed can often bear nuts very early, three to four years is not unusual compared to the often decades of nut bearing trees. Like most plants they won’t bear a heavy crop every year, but instead every 2 or 3 years with smaller yields on years between.
Of course there are some selections by the Nursery industry, including the Purple Leaf Bailey Select (Corylus americana ‘Purpleleaf Bailey Select’) if you just HAVE to have one that is a bit more ornamental. Although note research has begun to find that purple foliage plants may not feed our native insects as well as green leaf plants and if you are planting this plant for its high ecological value you may want to reconsider.
American hazelnuts are easy to propagate, maintain, and harvest. The hardest part about adding them to your landscape may be finding a nursery that sells them!