Hazel , the common name for shrubs or small trees of the genus corylus, which is by some botanists placed with the oak, chestnut, etc, in the order cupuliferoe, while others make it the type of a small order co-rylacecoe, comprising the hazel and the hornbeams. The name of the genus is an ancient one, and is supposed to be from the Greek a helmet, while the word hazel is referred by some to the Anglo-Saxon hoesel, bonnet. There are seven recognized species of the genus corylus, two of which are natives of North America. These are small, much branched shrubs, rarely over 6 ft. high, and very common along the edges of woods and by roadsides and in thickets. They are among the first plants to open their flowers in spring ; the staminate and pistillate flowers are in aments very dissimilar in appearance, and both upon the same plant; the male or staminate flowers are in cylindrical pendulous aments 2 or 3 in. long, and consist of a wedge-shaped scale, beneath which are about eight anthers; being perfectly formed the autumn before, these aments are ready to open with the first warm days, and when quite in flower they are tremulous with every breeze and scatter their pollen profusely. The pistillate aments are small, and might be overlooked by a careless observer, as they appear so much like buds.
A close inspection will show a cluster of delicate crimson stigmas projecting from the apex of the bud-like ament; the fertile flowers are very simple, consisting of an ovary with two elongated styles, placed in the axil of a scale and accompanied by two small bracts, which as the fruit matures increase rapidly in size, and ultimately form an envelope or husk which encloses it; the fruit is a one-seeded nut with a bony shell and a large sweet kernel. The most abundant American species is the common or American hazel, C. Americana, which has a nut about three fourths of an inch broad, somewhat less in length, and surrounded by a husk longer than itself, but which is open down to the nut; this involucre consists of two leafy bracts, which are thick below, with their margins cut and fringed. This species extends from Canada to Florida and west of the Mississippi. The nuts vary in size and quality, but at the best are inferior to the imported. The beaked hazel, C. rostrata, is a smaller bush than the other, and mainly differs from it in the form of the husk, which closely surrounds the nut and is prolonged beyond it into a long bristly beak; its form has been compared to that of a long-necked bottle; the nuts are less pleasant to the taste.
This is more common northward and upon mountains southward, and extends to the Pacific coast; a variety of it has even been found near the Amoor river in Asia. - The most important corylus is C. Avellana, which produces the well known imported filbert. The specific name is said to be from Abellina in Asia, which Pliny supposed to be its native country, but it is found wild in various parts of Europe and Asia, and to a limited extent in northern Africa. In its natural state the filbert forms a large bush, but by keeping down the suckers which it so abundantly produces it may be made to form a tree 20 or 30 ft. high. The filbert is largely cultivated in England and on the continent. This species has nearly the same general appearance as the American hazel bush, but the fruit is much larger, while the involucre or husk is not usually longer than the nut. It is but little cultivated in this country, and is only now and then seen in gardens, chiefly as a curiosity. With proper care in pruning there seems to be no obstacle to its cultivation here; those who have tried it say that it yields abundantly.
In England, where much attention is given to their cultivation, the bushes are kept to the height of about 6 ft., and in their early growth are pruned with a view to produce a great number of lateral branches, as it is upon these that the fruit is borne. There are 30 or 40 named varieties recorded, but not more than half a dozen are in general cultivation. The name filbert, or "full-beard," is given to those with a long husk; those with a short husk are called hazel-nuts, or simply nuts; while those with a short nut and a thick shell are known as cobs. Among the most valued varieties is the Cosford, which has a very long nut with a thin shell. In two of the esteemed cultivated rarities, the red and the white filbert, the husk is so much prolonged beyond the nut that some botanists have regarded it as a species, C. tubulosa; another marked variety is the frizzled nut. It is said that 30 cwt. of nuts have been produced upon a single acre. In England the nuts are preserved and sold in the husk; after being thoroughly dried they are sometimes subjected to the fumes of burning sulphur to prevent moulding; some for the same purpose pack them with salt.
Besides the large quantities raised in England, the importation, chiefly of Barcelona nuts, is very large, over 140,000 bushels having been imported in a single year. Those brought to the United States come almost wholly from the south of Europe; a very small quantity of English nuts in the husk are sold by city fruit dealers. The wood of the filbert is very close-grained, and furnishes tough and flexible shoots for making crates, hoops, whip handles, withes, and the like. A variety with dark purple foliage is cultivated as an ornamental shrub. An Asiatic species, C. colurna, forms a large tree; its nuts are imported into England under the name of Smyrna or Constantinople nuts; they yield an oil valued by painters.
Hazel Leaves and Fruit.