Corylus americana (American Hazelnut)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Betulaceae (Birch)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; moist to dry; open woods, thickets, savanna, prairie
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:4 to 16 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Slender, pale clusters (called catkins) up to 3 inches long of male pollen-bearing anthers hang from buds on 1-year-old branches. Female flowers are bud-like with a spray of red styles at the tip, on the same branch as male catkins, single in the axils or at the tip of the branch.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[scan of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, 2½ to 5 inches long, 1¼ to 3 inches wide, oval-elliptic or widest above the middle, with a long or short taper to a sharply pointed tip and a rounded to somewhat heart-shaped base. Edges are sharply double-toothed and may have a few very shallow lobes on the tip half. The upper surface is dark green and sparsely hairy, the lower is paler than the upper surface and hairy along most veins. Leaf stalks are ¼ to ¾ inch long and covered in a mix of soft, white, non-glandular hairs and bristly, dark, glandular hairs.

[photo of twigs and buds] New twigs are reddish to brown to grayish and densely covered in a mix of soft, white hairs and bristly glandular hairs, becoming smoother the second year.

[photo of older trunk] Older bark is light grayish brown with scattered white lenticels (pores), initially smooth but eventually developing a criss-cross pattern. Stems are multiple from the base, up to 1 inch in diameter, erect with ascending branches, spreading by rhizomes and may form small colonies or dense thickets.

Fruit: Fruit type: nut

[photo of maturing fruit] Fruit is a round nut with a hard shell, 1/3 to ½ inch in diameter, enveloped in a pair of bracts that form a stiff, green husk, with up to 5 nuts in a cluster. The husk is up to twice as long as the nut, jagged and ruffled at the tip, and variously covered in a mix of soft, white hairs and glandular hairs that are often red.

[photo of mature fruit] The nut becomes exposed as it expands and the bracts spread apart. Nuts and bracts turn an orangy brown when mature in late summer and may persist through fall if not snatched up by wildlife.


The nuts are very good eating, though smaller than commercially grown hazelnuts (a.k.a. filberts) so it takes a lot to make a handful. It is usually also a race to beat squirrels and other wildlife to the the punch. It strongly resembles the related Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), which lacks glandular hairs on twigs, leaf stalks and husks, and the husks have a distinctive, long beak. The two species' ranges overlap and may be found growing side by side, but Beaked Hazelnut is more common in moister sites and American Hazelnut in drier sites.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Lake Bronson State Park, Kittson County, and in Pine and Ramsey counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: stephanie t - Crow Wing Township
on: 2016-05-20 22:54:26

Have hoards on our property. Harvested nuts last fall.

Posted by: luciearl - Fairview Twp
on: 2018-08-06 08:38:26

Stephanie t-It appears I have both American and Beaked at various sites on my property. How do you know when to harvest? What do you do with them? Bake or eat raw?

Posted by: Jana H - Maine Prairie
on: 2018-09-15 16:12:20

Where can I purchase plants that will survive in MN?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-09-15 16:14:31

Jana, we do not track who sells what but check "where to buy native seeds and plants" that is shown on most pages, including the hazelnut species page. If none of those vendors carry it one may know who does.

Posted by: Yany - Virginia
on: 2018-10-03 13:35:36

Jana, Prairie Moon sells them sometimes. They are out of stock at the moment.

Posted by: Carly Austin-Kukowski - Winona
on: 2021-07-05 13:20:53

Found growing in the MN Marine Art Museum garden.

Posted by: Kent ROSVOLD - PLYMOUTH
on: 2021-08-26 17:14:44

Will this do well underneath the canopy of Boxelder trees... I would like to use as a hedge

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-08-26 17:33:40

Kent, it tolerates some shade but will do better in full sun.

Posted by: PKP - Todd Co.
on: 2021-10-11 09:27:48

I often find myself confusing hazel sp. and alder sp. when nuts and cones are absent. Is there an easy way to tell at a glance which is which? Much thanks, PKP

Posted by: Carly Austin-Kukowski - MN Marine Art Museum garden, Winona, MN
on: 2021-12-01 11:40:13

This grows on the outer border of their native garden.

Posted by: Dan Dietericih - Portage County, Wisconsin
on: 2021-12-12 18:37:52

The Chief River Nursery Company of Grafton, WI carries hazelnut bare-root stock. I live in Zone 4B and have native hazelnut shrubs along the edge of my woodland. I envy Minnesota's Million Hazelnut Campaign.

Posted by: A. Meyer - Pin Oak Prairie Scientific and Natural Area
on: 2023-07-21 22:35:38

After traipsing through a vague path through the grasses and wild parsnip, past a picturesque pair of oak trees, follow the path as it veers to the right up the open slope. There you'll find the hill dotted with hazelnut shrubs!

Posted by: James W Luedtke - Itasca State Park
on: 2023-07-23 15:51:09

Beaked and American hazelnuts nearly side by side on the trail to the big red pine (formerly state champ) on Wilderness Drive

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