Hazel can be found in many of our woods and hedgerows in the south west. Coppicing well and easily worked, hazel has long been a corner stone of British agriculture. Traditionally used for everything from wattle hurdles and stakes to thatching spars, charcoal and food in the form of nuts. Hazel is certainly one of our most versatile tree species. Young stems even make excellent bean-canes in the veg garden. 

Hazel is also one of our easiest hedgerow species to identify with its yellow catkins in the spring, large, broad, papery leaves in the summer and the obvious hazel nuts in the autumn. The yellow catkins, often called lambs-tails, are the hazel’s male flower. The female flower can be found on the un-opened buds as the catkins begin to drop and unfurl. They look like small red tentacles coming from the tip of each bud and are a sure sign that spring is on the way each year.


Pictures by Thomas Mansfield


Hazel also provides a fantastic resource for wildlife throughout the year. Dense hazel stools provide shelter and protection for insects and small mammals throughout the winter, while the catkins provide an early source of pollen for insects in the spring. In summer, before the hazel nuts have ripened (although this doesn’t seem to stop the squirrels from raiding most trees) a mass of sap sucking insects can found on the underside of leaves, providing a buffet for passing dormice and birds. Up to 60 species of UK moth caterpillars can also found feeding on hazel leaves in the summer including, the appropriately named, nut-tree tussock moth. If any have been left to ripen, there is a bounty of hazel nuts in the autumn.

Illustration by Joanna Uglow