Corylus avellana (Hazel)
Other Names: Common Hazel
Description: The species is generally seen as a multi stemmed shrub due to coppicing but it is possible it to grow into a small tree, reaching heights of 12m though this is very rare. It is very noticeable in late winter/early spring for its profusion of “Lamb tail” like yellow catkins which appear before the leaves. It has smooth, often shinny grey-brown bark. In late summer it produces a profusion of large edible nuts.
Uses: Coppiced hazel wood has been very useful over the centuries as it is flexible and can be twisted or knotted. It has been used for hurdles (fences), tools, weapons, thatching spars, fishing net stakes and furniture. “Cob” nuts are edible and tasty and were grown specifically for eating until the early 1900’s. It is often used now for charcoal production.
Conservation Value: Hazel is often referred to as the “Conservation saviour” due to its great value to a wide variety of species. Its leaves provide food for many species of caterpillar of moths including the Large Emerald, Small White Wave and Barred Umber. Coppiced hazel provides shelter for many bird species including the Nightjar, Yellow Hammer, Willow Warbler and Nightingale. Hazel nuts provide a key food source for the very rare Dormouse (sometimes known at the Hazel dormouse) to help gain weight before hibernation. The different heights of coppiced hazel “Stools” attract many different species of insects, which in turn attract many species of bats.
Preferred Locations: Clay, chalk, sand or loam soils in full or partial shade. Often found as understorey in mature woodlands, as scrub or in hedgerows.
Size: When coppiced and mature, between 2.5m and 4, with up to a 4m canopy spread.
Time to reach full height: 10 years but is often coppiced before this on a rotation of 5 to7 years.
Lifespan: Up to 80 years as a single tree but several hundred years if coppiced.