Corylus avellana

Hazel brandies so often and so low down that it is more likely to rank as a bush than as a tree: its typical form is shown in Plate 15. But it was very important at one time in British forestry because very extensive coppices, or copses, of hazel were cultivated in many districts to provide small poles. Their management was simple. Every 7 years or so the poles were cut; then the stump sent up fresh shoots. One seventh of the wood was cut each year, so that there was always a fresh supply ready every season. The main uses of these poles, produced so cheaply and abundandy. were as firewood, and in fencing and hurdle making. Other uses were as hedge stakes and hedging rods, bean poles, pea-sticks, doihes props, walking sticks, thatching spars for holding straw thatch on cornricks and house-roofs, hoops for barrels, rough baskets, and fish traps. In fact whenever a countryman wanted *a bit of wood,' he could usually get it from his hazel copse. Hazel also provided the watdes for 'wattle and daub' house building.

In 1950 there were about 200,000 hectares of hazel coppice in Great Britain, by 1965 this figure had fallen to 38,000 hectares, and by 1980 to less than 5,000 hectares. The reason is that hazel poles have lost nearly all their markets to other materials. People nowa days use coal, oil, gas. or electricity instead of wood fuel, even in country districts, and wire is used for most of the fencing jobs. Here and there you may still find a craftsman making hurdles, or cutting hedge stakes or thatch spars, but you are far more likely to see a forester busy converting hazel coppices to some more profitable timber crop. Scattered woods and lines of hazel bushes still persist on patches of rough ground, not worth reclaiming for farm or forest, and they are particularly frequent in the south of England. They provide cover for song-birds and game birds, and form an excellent habitat for many of our most attractive spring flowers - bluebells, windflowers, primroses and the bright pink campion, fig dde 31

Leaf bud and hairy twig of hazel (X 5).

The winter twig of hazel is typically hairy, and bears alternate buds that are pale green in colour. Its catkins open early before the leaves appear. February is the usual month, though in mild winters you may find them in January. The male catkins, which have been visible as long buds ever since Autumn, open and reveal their characteristic 'jambs-tail'outline. Each catkin consists of a series of bracts, each of which has two small bracteoles and a single flower. There are four stamens in each male flower, but their stalks are so deeply forked that on first sight there appear to be eight. These 'lambs-tail' catkins fall in March, after their wind-dispersed pollen has been shed.

The female catkins look very much like buds, but can be distin -guished by the tuft of crimson styles that appears at the tip of figure 52

Leaf-bearing twig of hazel in October, showing ripe nuts enclosed in leafy cupules (x;).

each. Each catkin holds three well-developed bracts, and eadi bract carries two female flowers, each with two styles. There are therefore 12 styles protruding from each catkin, to catch the pollen from the male flowers. After pollination, both the enclosing bud scales and the main bracts wither away, but two small bracteoles, which are not visible at flowering time, develop from the base of each flower. They enlarge enormously into leafy structures that surround the ripening fruit, a one-seeded nut This nut the hard-shelled cob nut' ripens in autumn, turning from green to brown. It is very nutritious and attracts birds, mice, squirrels and small boys, all of whom help to spread the seed. Hazel is easily raised from nuts stored under moist conditions until spring.

The cob nuts used for eating, and in cakes and chocolate, are gathered from hazel hushes grown under open conditions to give these branches ample sunlight; they are treated as orchard bushes and are pruned regularly. Most of the nuts are imported, but a few are grown in Kent, Filberts, with a longer leafy husk, are a cultivated strain of the related Balkan hazel. Coryhis maxima. A purple-leaved hazel, C, maxima variety purpurea, is occasionally grown for ornament in gardens.

Hazel leaves open late in April, after the catkins have dispersed their pollen through the leafless woods. These leaves are very broad, and have distinct veins and a toothed edge; they taper to a short point at the tip. They are placed, like the buds, alternately along the twigs. The bark is smooth, and somewhat greenish brown, with prominent breathing pores or lenticels and rough scaly patches.

The Turkish hazel, Corylus columa, is now planted in cities parks and gardens, where it grows strongly into a very shapely tree. Older trees can be 25m tall with a bole 3m round. Long catkins open in late January. The bark is grey and coarsely scaly and the leaves are bigger and more heart-shaped than in Common hazel. The big involucres round the nuts bear numerous green soft spines.

3i figure 33

Leafless, catkin-bearing twig of hazel in February (xj). Male catkins hang down like lambs tails; bud-like female catkins can only be identified by styles protruding beyond their bracts.

Lower left single female catkin (X4), holding six female flowers, each with two styles.

Lower right: single male flower (XI2) consisting of a bract with eight divided stamens.

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