Beaked Hazelnut

Corylus cornuta

Description & Overview

Beaked Hazelnut is a slow-growing, dense, thicket-forming shrub that is native to the northern two-thirds of Wisconsin. This shrub bears inconspicuous catkins in early spring before the leaves emerge. Male and female flowers are separate, but both types are present on each plant. Yellowish-brown drooping catkins are male flowers and tiny, beautiful pinkish-red flowers on females. Clusters of hazelnuts inside a hairy tubular “beak” appear in September. This fleshy coat contains a hard shell with an acorn-like nut inside prized by many forms of wildlife for its rich protein and fat. Leaves, similar looking to Birch leaves (in the same family Betulaceae) turn a beautiful vibrant yellow color as the formation of the next season’s catkins begin

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 8-10 feet
Mature Spread: 8-10 feet
Growth Rate: Very Slow
Growth Form: Shrub, suckering
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Average-moist, well-drained
Flower: 3″ long catkins, pale yellow-gray on male plants, tiny and red on female plants
Bloom Period: March-April, early Spring
Foliage: Dark green, 2-4.5″ long, double-toothed
Fall Color: Yellow
Fruit Notes: Husk is a tubular beak, covering a round nut with a hard shell. 1/3-1/2″, up to 6 nuts in a cluster. July-September

Suggested Uses:

Beaked Hazelnut naturally occurs in wood edges, fencerows, and thickets, appreciating some shade and soil a little on the moist side. Note that plants tolerate wind and pollution quite well, but do not tolerate salt so it is best not to plant near walkways or roads. It is a best practice to plant edibles away from roadsides to avoid contaminants.

Grown commercially for the nuts, Beaked Hazelnut is an obvious choice for an edible garden. Plant with serviceberries, currants, elderberries, and chokeberries to create your trail mix made from native Wisconsin species! This is also the host plant to several moth species and provides habitat, nesting spots, and food for wildlife making it an excellent addition to a pollinator garden.

Beaked Hazelnut is a great option that provides food for wildlife and a divide between spaces as it will naturally form a dense thicket over time. Use as a border, hedge, or windbreak, just note that it will take a while to form due to its growth rate.

Wildlife Value:

Beaked Hazelnut is pollinated by wind and does not rely on pollinators to do the work. It is however, a host plant to the Early Hairstreak (Erora laeta), Walnut Sphinx (Amorpha juglandis), Ironwood Tubemaker moth (Acrobasis sylviella), Filbertworm Moth (Cydia latiferreana), White-dotted Prominent(Nadata gibbosa), Funerary Dagger moth (Acronicta funeralis), Mottled Bomolocha (Choristoneura conflictana), Oblique-banded Leafroller Moth (Choristoneura rosaceana), Friendly Probole Moth (Probole amicaria), White Triangle Tortrix (Clepsis persicana), Straight-lined Plagodis moth (Plagodis phlogosaria), Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata), Unicorn Prominent (Schizura unicornis), and Speckled Green Fruitworm Moth (Orthosia hibisci).

Blue Jays, squirrels, chipmunks, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, pheasants, deer, rabbits, and Ruffed Grouse readily eat the nutrient and protein-dense nuts.

Branching provides great habitat and nesting materials for Ruffed Grouse and American Woodcock.

Deer, elk, and moose browse the foliage in winter. Goats tend to enjoy the foliage, but horses, cattle, and sheep find it unpalatable. Beavers also tend to prefer Beaked Hazelnut for browsing.

Maintenance Tips:

Pruning is minimal due to Beaked Hazelnut’s slow growth rate.

Removal of root suckers is optional, depending on the size of the plant you would like.

Mix in a little compost into the planting site to make this plant extra happy.


Black Walnut Tolerant: No
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No

There is no way around it; animals love to eat this plant. This makes it a powerhouse in terms of a beneficial wildlife garden, but if you aren’t okay with this, this may not be the shrub for you.

Beaked Hazelnut exhibits reportedly good resistance to filbert blight.

Leaf Lore:

The genus Corylus describes the shape of the seed bract and is derived from the Greek word ‘korylos’ or ‘korys’ which means “helmet.” The specific epithet cornuta means “horned” or “horn-shaped” alluding to the shape of the nut’s husk (bracts).

The common name, hazelnut, is from the Old English name for filbert.

Beaked Hazelnut can hybridize with another plant in the same genus, American Filbert (Corylus americana).

The roots were used to make a blueish dye. The twigs and stems were used for arrows, sieve baskets, fish traps, basketry, to tie things, to ease teething pain in children, for rheumatism, heart problems, intestinal disorders, eye pain, for snowshoes, to aid in wound healing, and as an astringent. Nuts were stored or eaten raw. The milk was used to cure coughs and colds, to heal cuts, and as an astringent.

Companion Plants:

Pair with other edible, native landscape plants such as Running Serviceberry, Glossy Black Chokeberry, American Filbert, Shagbark Hickory, Thimbleberry, American Black Currant, American Elderberry, Wild Bergamot, American Plum, Staghorn Sumac, Chokecherry, and Wild Hyacinth.

Create a food forest by combining with Hardy Kiwi, Honeycrisp Apple, Parker Pear, Reliance Peach, or North Star Cherry.

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