Contorted Filbert

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’

Description & Overview

Twisted knotty trunks of Contorted Filbert make a unique ornamental statement in the landscape. Commonly referred to as Harry Lauder’s walking stick, this deciduous shrub provides winter interest with its gray gnarly (but in a good way) branch structure and dangling catkins. The small stature and shade tolerance allow for placement where other ornamental shrubs or trees may not thrive.

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: No – Introduced
Mature Height: 6-10ft
Mature Spread: 6-10ft
Growth Rate: Slow
Growth Form: Rounded, sometimes weeping form, contorted branch structure
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Prefers rich moist, well-drained soils
Flower: Showy yellow catkins
Bloom Period: Late winter to early spring before leaves arrive
Foliage: Rough, medium oval shaped leaves
Fall Color: Slight yellow, mostly insignificant
Fruit Notes: None, male cultivar

Suggested Uses:

Adaptable to less rich soil types, Contorted Filbert prefers rich, moist and well-drained soil. Performs best in full sun to partial shade, it can be used as a hedging/mixed screen. It draws all-season interest when utilized as a specimen planting in the landscape. Compatible with a wide range of companion plants it’s an exciting feature for an ornamental landscape bed. Place near walkways, in front of homes, near patios and in ornamental gardens.

May also be grown in patio containers. Cut and dried stems are often seen in flower arrangements.

Wildlife Value:

Although this species cultivars and hybrids are more often produced and grown for consumption (hazelnut) Contorted Filbert does not produce fruit (nuts). For a similar plant with less ornamental interest and more wildlife value, try native American Filbert.

Maintenance Tips:

Allow it to grow naturally and take a curvy form shape. Prune out some branches to allow the interesting ones to show off. Because the majority of Contorted Filberts on the market are grafted onto a different rootstock, suckers can be an ongoing issue. Prune out any suckers that arise and do not resembled the twisty stems true to the grafted species.


Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ is known to have good resistance to filbert blight. Rarely occurring diseases include black knot, crown gall, and leaf spot. Scale may also occur. In years when Japanese beetles are bad, they may attack the foliage.

Leaf Lore:

This selection was found in a southeastern English community, Frocester in roughly 1863 growing in a hedgerow. Sited by Victorian gardener Canon Ellacombe, it was eventually given the common name Harry Lauder’s walking stick. Harry Lauder at the time a very well-known singer and comedian, acknowledged for becoming the first performer to sell over a million records. Part of his stage performance included a bit where we wore a kilt (he was Scottish) and used a twisted and severely distorted walking stick. Thus, we have, Corylus avellane.

Companion Plants:

Sited as a specimen plant, accent with low growing perennials like John Creech Sedum, Dragon’s Blood Sedum, Rozanne Geranium, or creeping evergreens like Blue Chip Juniper and Calgary Carpet™ Juniper. In part shade choose All Gold Japanese Forest Grass, Herman’s Pride Archangel Lamium, and Canada Wild Ginger.

johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32