Plant of the day: beaked hazelnut

Broad, fuzzy leaves are beginning to turn brown on this charming shrub of the understory. In a month or so, the branches will be bare skeletons, ready for the winter.

Beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) is found across the country–except for the south. Around here you usually see it in moist forest understories, shaded canyons or streamsides. It has slim, sometimes drooping branches decked with light green, jagged-edged leaves. The flowers are monoecious, meaning that each flower is either male or female–but both sexes appear on a single plant. The female flowers look like tassels of small crimson threads; the male flowers are drooping pale catkins. But often this plant reproduces clonally, growing in dense clusters that are genetically identical.

Grouse, deer, rabbits, voles, and other critters use these shrubs for food and shelter. The tasty nuts have been compared to filberts, and commercial hazelnuts, and can be eaten raw or cooked. Native Americans wove the slim and flexible branches into baskets and baby carriers.

It’s the only hazelnut found in California.

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Filed under Edible, Good for gardens, Native, Plant of the day

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