Corylus americana

American Hazel

American Hazel Leaves

American Hazel
Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Corylus, from the Latin for hazel
  • americana, from the Latin, "of America"
  • Common Name, well, unimaginative
  • Other common names include American Filbert, American Hazelnut


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Hamamelididae
        • Order Fagales
          • Family Betulaceae, the Birches
            • Genus Corylus, the Hazels, 15 species, most of which occur in Asia.
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 19506


  • A large, deciduous, rhizomatous, thicket forming shrub from 3'-10' tall.¼, ½, ¾, º, é
  • Leaves 3"-5" long.
  • Stem
  • Roots
  • Flowers
    • Sepals
    • Petals
    • Stamens
    • Pistils
    • Ovary superior (within blossom) inferior (below flower)
  • Fruit an acornlike nut enclosed in two leafy bracts.
  • Seed
  • Trunk straight, with spreading, ascending branches.
  • Dioecious; male catkins 8" long, straight, slender, and regularly spaced along the upper stem; female flowers tiny, almost completely enclosed by bracts, and near the end of the twigs.
  • Roots typically in upper 6" of soil. Some smaller roots run vertically toward the surface and branch profusely into very fine laterals.
  • Rhizomes large, woody; 4"-6" below the surface.


  • Identifiable as
  • Distinguished from Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta) by absence of horned beak on fruit.
  • Field Marks


  • Alaska to Newfoundland,
  • Maine west to Saskatchewan, south to Oklahoma, Georgia, and north through New England.


  • Along streams, hedgerows, meadows, woodlands, roadsides, and forest margins.
  • Grows best on rich, moist, well-drained soils.
  • Shade tolerant, it can grow under a light intensity of 15% or less; even as low as 1%.
  • A mid-succession species, usually absent in old-growth forest. A dominant or codominant shrub in maple-basswood (Acer-Tilia) forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota and a dominant understory species in Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana), Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides), and Nothern Pin Oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) communities.
  • Often competes with hardwoods and pines for light and moisture. Its shading and aggressive growth have long been recognized as a major deterent to the successful regeneration of upland conifers. American and Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta) are responsible for much of the failure of Red Pine (Pinus resinosa) regeneration in Minnesota.


  • Killed by low to moderate severity fires. It survives fire by sprouting from rhizomes. The underground roots and rhizomes can survive low to moderate severity fires when the humus is moist. They are relatively shallow, however, and are vulnerable to fire when the humus is dry and combustible. May be eliminated by single fires if humus is sufficiently dry to be completely consumed.
  • In areas where fire has been excluded, a heavy density has developed, suppressing desirable tree species and contributing to fuel buildup.
  • Repeated summer fires inhibit the ability to sprout by exposing and damaging underground stems and roots and exhausting stored food reserves.


  • Trees: Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana), Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
  • Shrubs: Dogwood (Cornus spp.), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Raspberry (Rubus spp.),
  • Herbs:
  • Ground Covers:
  • Mammals: Leaves, twigs, and catkins are browsed by deer and moose. The nuts are eaten by small mammals, ruffed grouse and other large birds, and deer. Beaver eat the bark
  • Birds:


  • Cultivated as an ornamental since 1798.
  • Nuts used by Native Americans to flavor soups.


  • Commercially cultivated for nut production.
  • The sweet nuts may be eaten raw or ground and made into a cakelike bread.


  • Sexually by seed
  • Flowers
  • Assexually by
  • Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes.
  • Begins producing seed after the first year, producing good seed crops every 2-3 years.
  • Seed dispersal chiefly by mammals or birds.
  • Vegetative reproduction from rhizomes the most important mode of reproduction. Rhizomes give rise to new shoots 1'-2' from the parent plant.


  • By seed, following cold stratification.
  • Division most successful method


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Sun
    • Soil
    • Water
    • Spacing
    • Fertilization
  • Size 12"-18"W x 12"-18"H
  • Growth rate
  • Good for
  • Cultivars include
    • variety 'Alba', with
  • Cultivars and species available by mail order from specialty suppliers or at local nurseries
  • Commonly grown for landscaping and nuts.
  • Readily available by mail order.



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Last updated on 29 August, 2004