A shrub 12 to 20 ft high, sometimes with the habit of a small tree, but usually forming a dense thicket of erect, much-branched stems, renewing itself by sucker growths from the base; young shoots glandular-downy. Leaves roundish or obovate, heart-shaped at the base, 2 to 4 in. long, 11⁄2 to 3 in. wide; the lower half irregularly toothed, the terminal half often shallowly lobed as well as toothed; downy on both surfaces, but especially beneath; stalk glandular-hairy, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Male catkins 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 in. long. Nut 3⁄4 in. long, set in a husk about or scarcely as long as itself, the margins of which are cut into shallow, often toothed lobes.
Native of Europe (including Britain), W. Asia, and N. Africa. This is the hazel whose nuts are among those commonly eaten for dessert. It is really a shrub for the woodland rather than the garden, and on many properties a brake of it is grown for the sake of the nuts. In autumn, the hazel frequently turns a soft pleasing yellow, but its chief attraction as an ornamental shrub is in the abundance and earliness of its male catkins. These form in the autumn, and remain as short, dark, cylindrical bodies all the winter. About mid-February the anthers burst, and they then become a soft yellow; at that time a bush well in flower makes an attractive picture. The branches of the hazel are extremely supple, and on this account the shrub was in earlier times much used to form the pleached alleys or shaded walks in the vicinity of the old chateaux of France. The pliancy of hazel rods renders them useful for various purposes, such as hoops for crates, etc. The twigs are used by water-diviners. There are several varieties of hazel, most of them grown for the qualities of the nut. Those of interest as ornamental shrubs are as follows:
cv. ‘Aurea’. – Leaves a poor yellow.
cv. ‘Contorta’. – Twigs remarkably curled and twisted. This curious form was discovered about 1863, in a hedgerow at Frocester, in Gloucestershire (Gard. Chron., 29th Sept. 1894, p. 380).
cv. ‘Fusco-rubra’. – This is of more recent origin than the purple variety of C. maxima and is not so coarse a grower. The purple of the leaves is not so heavy and dark. The name adopted here is preferable to “purpurea”, since the C. avellana vat. purpurea of Loudon is in fact the purple-leaved form of C. maxima.
cv. ‘Heterophylla’. – Leaves smaller and more downy than in the type, and of oval outline. Their most distinctive character, and one which renders them very pretty, is the deep lobing all round the blade. These lobes are triangular and penetrate about one-third of the distance to the midrib, being themselves sharply toothed. In naming this form it is assumed that it belongs to the clone distributed by Loddiges’ nursery around 1836 and described by Loudon (Arb. et Frut. Brit., p. 2017).
cv. ‘Pendula’. – A weeping variety which, trained up to form a trunk or grafted high, makes a pretty small tree. It was introduced from France by Bull’s nursery in 1869.