For the last few weeks, when touched by the winter sun, woods, hedgerows, roadsides and parks have been lit up by the yellow-gold of the Hazel catkins that seem to appear anytime from early February to April.
The male catkins are long and yellow, but the female ones are just tufts of red stigmas which sprout from the leaf buds of the twigs and generally go un-noticed.
In the autumn, clusters of green nuts appear, which gradually ripen to a hard brown and these nuts are a very attractive food to large birds and various mammals. Try collecting some mature nuts which often scatter the ground around Hazel trees. Some will be intact, but others will have been opened and careful observation of the teeth marks around the broken nut, will indicate what creature has broken and eaten the tasty centre within the hard, brown shell.
What has opened these Hazel nuts?
Illustrations are Copyrighted L. Merrick 2001 – 2018
Left to Right
Squirrel, Bank Vole, Wood Mouse & Dormouse.
Hazel branches are very flexible and are used for many things such as baskets, boats and houses.
Slender rods are obtained by coppicing, whereby the branches are regularly cut back to ground level so that the plant produces long, straight rods.
Hazel is a small tree, growing to about 9m and is common in Britain and Europe. The fruit is a hard nut, with the inner seed containing 60% fatty oils. This is often extracted and utilized for oil colours and for the making of perfumes.
Size: Up to 9m.
Flower colour: Yellow
Flower structure: Long male yellow catkins. Female catkins are tiny and red.
Leaf shape: Rounded, pointed tips.
Flowering: February to late March
Habitat: Woodlands and hedgerows.