It’s almost unfair to call American hazelnut (Corylus americana) a shrub. The word just doesn’t do justice to this statuesque, intriguing woodland plant. Grow this North American native for its broad, spreading form (perfect for a living screen), bright spring catkins, fuzzy foliage, and striking fall color. Its nuts ripen in unique fringed husks in mid to late summer, providing food for birds, squirrels, and persistent humans.
Common names: Hazelnut, American hazelnut, American filbert
Botanical name: Corylus americana
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 3 to 9
Height: 10 to 15 feet
· Sun: Full sun to part shade
· Soil: Average, well-drained
· Moisture: Medium; tolerates moderately dry or moist conditions
· Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
· Pruning: Remove suckers annually unless you want a thicket to form.
· Fertilizer: None needed.
· By seed
Pests and diseases
· Possible diseases include fungal spots, blight, and canker.
· May attract scale insects, bud mites, or caterpillars.
· Corylus americana looks good in woodland gardens or at the back of the border, where it can stretch out. Its mature size is too big for the middle of a flower bed.
· Use this shrub as a privacy screen or a hedge. It will sucker and form thickets unless pruned back.
· If you keep birds and squirrels away, you can harvest the edible nuts in fall. They’re smaller than the hazelnuts you buy in stores.
· Corylus americana doesn’t have cultivars, but its cousin, C. avellana, has many. Commerical growers typically use cultivars of C. avellana, a hazelnut originally from Europe and Turkey (not to be confused with the Turkish hazelnut, C. colurna).
· Another native American hazelnut, C. cornuta, has growth habits very similar to C. americana.
All in the family
· The Birch family also includes alders (Alnus) and hornbeams (Carpinus)—and, of course, birch trees (Betula). All together Betulaceae contains about 130 species.
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Corylus americana courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)