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The Hazel

UK Garden Centre - Information on the Hazel

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Family Batulaceae
Carylus Avelana

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 bole.
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 breeze.
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.


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