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Close-up of the "beaked" fruit on western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). One of many species of Pacific Northwest native shrubs available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Close-up of the female flower on western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). One of many species of Pacific Northwest native shrubs available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Many male catkins dangle from the branches of western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). One of many species of Pacific Northwest native shrubs available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Close-up of the leaves and early fruit on western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). One of many species of Pacific Northwest native shrubs available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Soft green leaves on western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). One of many species of Pacific Northwest native shrubs available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Close-up of golden fall leaves on western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). One of many species of Pacific Northwest native shrubs available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Western Hazelnut
Close-up of the male catkin on western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). One of many species of Pacific Northwest native shrubs available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Growth habit of a young western hazelnut shrub (Corylus cornuta) in the habitat garden. One of many species of Pacific Northwest native shrubs available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Close-up of the nut of western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). One of many species of Pacific Northwest native shrubs available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.

Western Hazelnut

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Corylus cornuta ssp californica

Western, or beaked, hazelnut is a deciduous, multi-stemmed small tree (or large shrub) with vase-like arching branches. It has saw-toothed leaves that are notably soft in both texture and color; velvet to the touch and sweet on the eyes. It is one of the first blooming plants, with blooms that are showy in-sofar as the competition is slim in January, and certainly a welcomed reminder of spring to come. It is monoecious - which means both male and female parts are contained in one plant. The leafless branches are adorn with puffy clusters of red female stigmas, tiny and unnoticeable to the naked eye, but strikingly ornate under a magnifying glass, and pale-yellow male catkins dangle from the branch tips. In fall, the leaves turn golden-yellow and fruits mature into hard-shelled edible nuts, which are collected by birds, small mammals and only the most astute gardeners that can outwit the wildlife. 

  • Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous, perennial, large shrub or small tree
  • Size at maturity: 2'-14' high; 10'-20' wide
  • Light requirements: full sun, part sun/part shade, full shade
  • Moisture requirements: moist to dry soils
  • Bloom time: Jan - March
  • Growth rate/ease: fast growing, easy to grow
  • Wildlife support: flowers attract and provide nectar to adult butterflies; fruits (in this case nuts) are collected by many species of mammals and birds, especially native jays squirrels and chipmunks; the foliage is eaten by rabbits and deer; the overall plant attracts and supports beneficial and other pest eating insects, is a caterpillar host plant and larval food source for native butterflies and moths
  • Native habitat/range: grows on moist, rocky slopes, streambanks and riparian areas, in the understory or at the edge of mixed forests, and lakeshores, from sea level to 1800m, generally from the Cascades to the coast across the Pacific Northwest. Portland Plant List - yes. 
  • Special features & uses: wildlife favorite; edible nuts; ethnobotanically this plant has been exceptionally important to indigenous folks for millennia and strategic fire regimes were historically used to maintain optimal conditions and to maximize nut production, which were collected for eating and trade, twiggy new growth can be used to build common household products like fish traps, baskets, and baby carriers; landscape uses include; erosion control, habitat hedgerows, windbreaks

Gardening with Western Hazelnut: This plant is not fussy. Ideally, it prefers part sun/part shade locations with moist, well-drained soils but it can tolerate full sun to full shade and summer drought in shady spots. It's a perfect choice for pollinator and woodland gardens. 

Photo Credit 1, 2, 10: © joergmlptssome rights reserved (CC-BY) 

Photo Credit 3: "File:California hazelnut (Corylus cornuta californica) (4361407132).jpg" by Franco Folini from San Francisco, USA is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo Credits 4 & 9: © Michael Warnersome rights reserved (CC-BY)

Photo Credit 5: © Irina Mitinesome rights reserved (CC-BY)

Photo Credit 6: "Corylus cornuta (Beaked Hazel)" by Plant Image Library is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo Credits 7 & 8: Karli Del Biondo, Beetles and Bees