It is rarely that the Hazel is allowed in this
country to develop into a tree; as a rule it is
a shrub, forming undergrowth in wood or copse,
or part of a hedge. As it is cut down with the
copse or hedge, it cannot form a standard of any
size. But that the Hazel left alone will develop
into a small tree is shown by an example in Eastwell
Park, Kent, whose height some years ago was thirty
feet, with a circumference of three feet round
The large, roundish, heart-shaped leaves are arranged
alternately in two rows along the straight downy
shoots. Their margins are doubly toothed, and
when in the bud they are plaited, the folds being
parallel to the midrib. Soon after the buds open,
many of the leaves assume a purplish tint for
a while; in autumn they turn brown, and finally
pale to yellow.
Before the leaves appear the Hazel is rendered
conspicuous by the male catkins, which are familiar
to country children under the name of Lamb’s-tails.
These may be seen in an undeveloped condition
in the autumn, when the nuts are being sought.
A cluster of two or three hard, little, grey-green
cylinders is all that may then be seen of them;
but throughout the winter they lengthen, their
scales loosen, and in February they are a couple
of inches long, pliant, and yellow with the abundant
pollen which blows out of them as they swing in
The female flowers are by no means conspicuous,
and have to be looked for. They will be found
in the form of swollen buds on the upper part
of the shoots and branches, from which issue some
fine crimson threads. These are the styles and
stigmas, and on dissection of the bud-like head,
each pair of styles will be seen to spring from
a two-celled ovary nestling between the bracts
or scales of which the head is composed.
It is only rarely that the seed-egg in each cell
develops; as a rule one shrivels, and the other
develops into the sweet “kernel” of
the Hazelnut. The shell is the ovary that has
become woody and hard; the ragged-edged leathery
“shuck” is the enlarge bracts that
surrounded the minute flower.
The Hazel like a good soil, and will not really
flourish without it, though it will grow almost
anywhere, except where the moisture is stagnant.
Its wood is said to be best when grown on chalky
subsoil. As timber, the Hazel does not count,
but its tough and pliant rods are valuable for
many small uses, such as the making of hoops for
casks, walking sticks, and divining rods. The
bark is smooth and brown.
The Barcelona nut, imported in winter, is only
a variety of the Hazel; as also the Cob and Filbert,
so largely cultivated in Kent.