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American Hazelnut (Corylus americana)
American hazelnut has long been valued as an ornamental and for planting in naturalized settings. It grows in sun or partial shade and is useful for borders because of its colonial tendency. The leaves turn golden yellow to red or purple in the fall.
Although smaller than the European hazelnuts available in the supermarket, the nut is nevertheless quite tasty and attractive as is the plant itself. In general, height does not exceed 15 feet and the plant exhibits a bush or shrub-like growth habit when allowed to sucker freely.
American hazelnut are fairly easy to propagate, maintain, and harvest. An added benefit is that plants started from seed can often bear nuts early, three to four years is not uncommon.
The nuts of American hazelnut, which have a higher nutritional value than acorns and beechnuts, also are eaten by squirrels, foxes, deer, northern bobwhite, ruffed grouse, turkey, woodpeckers, pheasants, and deer. The leaves, twigs, and catkins are browsed by rabbits, deer, and moose. The male catkins are a winter food for turkey and ruffed grouse. The dense, low growth habit provides cover and nesting sites for many wildlife species.
American hazelnut occurs in moist to dry woods and thickets, forest margins, roadsides, and fencerows and other disturbed areas. It grows best on rich, moist, well-drained soils but often may be found close to streamsides and also grows on prairies.