Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hazel


Another quick one this evening as my parents are staying over and we've been chewing the fat, burning the candle, etc. However, I did manage a perambulation of the grounds and found some species sneakily in flower.

This is hazel, Corylus avellana, and it is in flower! The flowers are monoecious: the female flower is the tiny red bit sticking out of the bud at the top of the left hand picture; the male is the familiar catkin. The nuts, of course, develop from the former. 

We planted a number of hazel and filibert cultivars about 5 years ago. Usually the tree rats get them just after it occurs to me that I should think about picking them. Last year I got there first and we had over 4kg! Still have plenty left. Turkey produces over 75% of the world's hazelnuts: around 625 tonnes. But hazel was one of the most important plants to us humans because of its tendency to coppice. In fact it 'autocoppices'. It has provided long thin poles for a multiplicity of uses down the ages as well as its delicious, protein-rich nuts.

Coppicing was once how nearly all woodland was managed. Its cessation has caused massive habitat loss with inevitable consequences for the dependent species.

Hazel is usually placed in the birch family, Betulaceae, with the alders and hornbeams.
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