Beaked Hazelnut is a native perennial shrub, growing from 6 to 16 feet in height, with open spreading branches that have light brown smooth bark, that with age becomes gray and more patterned.
Twigs have a slight zigzag shape, are smooth or with sparse fine hair, but lack glandular hairs. Buds have 2-toned scales, a grayish brown overall with their bases more dark. Winter flower buds are ovoid with an acute tip.
The leaves are alternate, simple, stalked, oval to narrowly elliptic, often with slight lobes near the pointed tip and with bases that are narrowly heart-shaped to narrowly rounded. Leaf margins are irregularly double-toothed, the upper side is dark green and the underside is paler in color, and slightly fuzzy, at least on the veins.
Flowers: Beaked Hazelnut is monoecious, that is, the male and female flowers are separate. Male flowers occur in light gray catkins in groups of 2 or 3, hanging from near the tips of branches. These form in fall, overwinter, and then elongate in the spring exposing the flowers. The female flowers develop from the winter ovoid buds, either at the twig tips or further back on the twig. In the spring, only the bright red stigma and styles protrude from the bud.
Seed: Fertile flowers produce 1/2 inch diameter edible brown nuts in clusters of 2 to 6. The nuts are completely hidden under bristly-hairy, leaf-like bracts that have a tubular beak more than 2x as long as the nut itself. These bracts are yellow-green to green initially, turning brown at maturity. Plants can bear fruit within 5 or 6 years.
Habitat: Beaked Hazelnut grows in moist to dry fence rows, wood edges, thickets, in well drained soils with full to partial sun. It transplants well when young or from the offshoots of the root system. The root system is rhizomatous allowing the plant to spread via its root system. It also develops a taproot.
Names: The common name of hazelnut is derived from 'hazel', the old English name for filbert. Hazelnut has been cultivated the U.S. since the late 1700s and there are several varieties available for commercial nut production. The genus, Corylus, is derived from the Greek word 'korus', meaning 'helmet' and refers to the shape and hardness of the nut shells. The species, cornuta, is Latin, referring to 'bearing horns, or in reference to short lateral ridges, such as appear on the nut of this species. A name formerly used for this species was C. rostrata. The author name for the plant classification - ‘Marshall’ is for Humphry Marshall (1722-1801), American Botanist, who published in 1785 - Arboreteum Americanum: The American Grove, an Alphabetical Catalogue of Forest Trees and Shrubs, Natives of the American United States.
Comparisons: The close relative of this species is American Hazelnut, C. americana. It has similar leaves and flowers but the fruit does not have the long tubular beak of C. cornuta.
Above: 1st photo - The nuts are completely hidden under bristly-hairy, leaf-like bracts that have a tubular beak more than 2x as long as the nut itself. 2nd photo - leaves are simple, stalked, often with slight lobes near the pointed tip, margins are irregularly double-toothed. 3rd photo - Bark of old stems is brownish and scaly
Below: The male catkins, formed in fall of the previous year, just before elongation in the spring. Twigs have a zigzag shape and buds have 2-toned scales, a grayish brown overall with their bases more dark.
Below: The nuts of Beaked Hazelnut. Photo ©Steve Hurst, USDA-NRCS Plants Database.
Notes: Beaked Hazelnut is indigenous to the Garden. However, before knowing that Eloise Butler planted this species on May 9, 1910 with plants obtained from Kelsey's Nursery in North Carolina and then on July 4, 1914 she wrote "discovered Coruylus rostrata in swamp and near spring! Now in fruit!" Martha Crone reported planting 60 seeds on May 11, 1933 and Ken Avery reported planting it in 1962. It is no longer present in the Garden.
Beaked Hazelnut is found in North America across all the lower Canadian Provinces except Labrador and across the northern states of the US then extending southward along the coast and the Appalachians. Within Minnesota it occurs in almost all counties north and east of a diagonal line from Filmore in the SE to Polk in the northwest. There are only 3 species of Corylus native to North America. Two are found in Minnesota, this one and C. americana, the American Hazelnut. The third species is found on the west coast and called the California Hazelnut, C. cornuta Marshall var. californica.
Uses: The nuts are sweet and similar to the European Filbert and have long been used for eating or grinding up into meal to make a cake-like bread. Flavor is similar to the two commercial varieties, C. colurna and C. maxima Mill. Great numbers of wildlife species also benefit from this plant in the wild.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Identification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"