American Hazelnut (Americana)

The American Hazelnut (Americana) is generally described as a perennial shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The American Hazelnut (Americana) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical American Hazelnut (Americana) will reach up to 10 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 10 feet.

The American Hazelnut (Americana) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Hazelnuts and filberts are produced by species of Corylus. Commercial filberts (C. colurna L. and C. maxima Mill.) are cultivated in various parts of the world, particularly Turkey, Italy, Spain, China, and the US. Nuts of the native American species (C. americana and C. cornuta) are smaller but similar to the cultivated ones in flavor, and C. cornuta also is commercially cultivated for nut production. The nuts are sweet and may be eaten raw or ground into flour for cake-like bread. The nuts were used by American Indians to flavor soups.

The nuts of American hazelnut, which have a higher nutritional value than acorns and beechnuts, also are eaten by squirrels, foxes, deer, northern bobwhite, ruffed grouse, turkey, woodpeckers, pheasants, and deer. The leaves, twigs, and catkins are browsed by rabbits, deer, and moose. The male catkins are a winter food for turkey and ruffed grouse. The dense, low growth habit provides cover and nesting sites for many wildlife species.

Extractives of American hazelnut and their physically modified derivatives, primarily glycerides of the fatty acids, are used for emollients. Other derivatives, such as tinctures, concretes, absolutes, essential oils, oleoresins, terpenes, terpene-free fractions, distillates, and residues are used for botanicals.

American hazelnut has long been valued as an ornamental and for planting in naturalized settings. It grows in sun or partial shade and is useful for borders because of its colonial tendency. The leaves turn orange to red or purple in the fall. It is available from various commercial growers – there apparently are no cultivars apart from the wild type. Cultivars of the European filbert (C. avellana L.) tend to be small trees and also are useful in landscaping.

General Characteristics

General: Birch family (Betulaceae). Native shrubs growing 1-3(-4) meters tall, strongly rhizomatous and forming colonial thickets; main stems (or trunk) straight, with spreading, ascending branches, the twigs slender, zigzag, light brown, with numerous stiff, red-glandular hairs. Leaves are deciduous, alternate, broadly oval with a heart-shaped or rounded base, 8-12(-15) cm long and 12 cm wide, acuminate, doubly serrate, hairy beneath, the petiole with stiff, glandular hairs. Male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers are separate, but both types present on each plant (the species monoecious); male flowers numerous in long, pendulous stalks (catkins) 8-10 cm long, in clusters of two or three near branch tips, appearing in the fall, but opening the following spring. Female flowers are several in a scaly bud, tiny and inconspicuous with only bright red stigma and styles protruding from the gray-brown buds, almost completely enclosed by bracts, near the end of the twigs. Fruit is a light brown, acorn-like nut 1-2 cm long, wider than long, enclosed in two, leafy, coarsely toothed (husk-like) bracts. The common name reflects its being native to North America and “hazel” is from the Old English name for filbert.

Variation within the species: several variants have been described within the species: Corylus americana var. indehiscens Palmer & Steyermark (fruit bracts united along one side) from southwestern Missouri; Corylus americana forma missouriensis (A. DC.) Fern. (petioles essentially glandless) from southeastern Kansas. These have not been generally recognized, and the species is currently treated with no formal variants.

Distinguished from beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) by absence of a horned beak on the fruit.

Required Growing Conditions

Widespread in eastern North America, Maine west to Saskatchewan and North Dakota, south to eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Georgia, not found along the Gulf coast region. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation American hazelnut occurs in moist to dry woods and thickets, forest margins, roadsides, and fencerows and other disturbed areas. It grows best on rich, moist, well-drained soils but often may be found close to streamsides and also grows on prairies. Open habitats are common, but it also can grow successfully in deep shade and is found at 0-750 at meters in elevation. This species flowers in February–April before the emergence of leaves and fruits in July–August.

Cultivation and Care

Plants of American hazelnut may begin producing seed after the first year and produce good seed crops every 2-3 years. The seeds have a period of dormancy, apparently overcome by cold treatment.

General Upkeep and Control

American hazelnut is removed by growers of commercial closely managed forests, primarily because of its aggressive colonial habit and corresponding competition with timber trees. It is easily top-killed by spring and summer fires. The underground roots and rhizomes can survive low- to moderate-severity fires when the humus is moist, but they are relatively shallow and vulnerable to repeated summer fires when the humus is dry and combustible.

American hazelnut is not affected by any serious pests. Several canker-forming fungi may result in girdling or breakage of stems. Mildew may defoliate plants and fungi may destroy nuts.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Intermediate
Height When Mature 10
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Low
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5–7 pH
Precipitation Range 32–32 inches/yr
Planting Density 700–1700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Minimum Frost-Free Days 100 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA