The Hazel (Corylus avellana)
The Hazel Tree, native to the UK, colonised as the earth changed from tundra to temperate roughly 8,200 years ago. (You can read more of this in The New Sylva by Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblett.)
You will find out all about native Flora and Fauna, including Hazel on your Forest School training, and most likely identify it on your Forest School Site.
So what does a Hazel Tree look like?
It is largely known for its famous nuts, the Hazelnut. Although cultivated varieties now are called Cobnuts and are still widely grown in areas of the UK, mainly Kent, most of our Hazelnuts are imported from across the seas.
The Hazel can grow to 12m tall if it is not coppiced. Left to grow and not coppiced the Hazel can live for up to 80 years. When the Hazel is coppiced, it can live for hundreds of years. Coppiced Hazel is often used to make hedgerows, as it can spread out and its long poles are fast growing. It grows often in the understory of woodland, under oak, ash and birch.
Hazel leaves are round and soft, with a downy hair underneath. Not to be confused with the Elm leaf. Although they look similar the Elm has a much rougher texture.
The Hazel has catkins that are green and hard. These burst open producing yellow pollen spores. Due to being wind-pollinated, bees struggle to carry the pollen as each pollen spore repels the other.
Hazel: The rich habitat
Hazel is a rich habitat for creatures and fungus such as the fiery milkcap fungi. Providing nesting for ground-nest birds such as the Willow Warbler, Nightingale and Nightjar. Maintained woodlands with coppiced Hazel are often flower rich, and this provides food for lots of caterpillars and butterflies.
The ‘Hazel Dormouse’ is long associated with the tree, feasting on its nuts and the caterpillars that dwell there in spring. The Hazel Dormouse is sadly now on the endangered species list due to unmanaged woodland and the lack of coppicing of its natural and preferred habitat.
Newly coppiced Hazel should be protected from deer and rabbits who like to nibble the fresh shoots and branches.
<<< (Beautiful artwork by Lily Horseman)
“The Hazel Doormouse is sadly now on the endangered species list due to unmanaged woodland and the lack of coppicing of its natural and preferred habitat. “
Uses – Due to its highly bendy properties, especially in the spring time, Hazel can be manipulated to create all sorts of objects. Often used to make hurdles, screening, and furniture. Gardeners also use the long, straight Hazel poles to make pea sticks, bean poles and canes.
Coppicing – Is the ancient method of managing woodlands, by removing old wood and encouraging new young branches to grow. The trees put out new shoots and growth from their stump or roots. After many years of growth, the shoots are cut down and the process starts again. A coppiced and well managed woodland is called a Copse. After coppicing, it provides lots of sunlight to get to the ground level of the woodland floor, meaning Bluebells, Primroses and Anemone’s can flourish.
Folklore – Much like the Rowan Tree, Hazel is said to have magical properties to ward away evil spirits. Often planted outside the home to do so. People would carry the nuts as a lucky charm, it was also believed that they kept Rheumatism at bay. Mythology believes the Hazel was said to also be the symbol for fertility.