My hazelnut tree, which I raised from a seedling, finally has nuts on it! There are only two of them, but I'm still excited. Every year for the last few years I've checked the tree for signs of nuts, only to be disappointed--and now it finally has some. Here they are--aren't they cute?
This pic shows the immature nut inside the husk:
Where I live used to contain a hazelnut orchard many years ago (or so the neighborhood old-timers tell me), so there are lots of hazelnut trees in the area. The squirrels bury the nuts and forget to eat some of them, so they sprout, and we end up with lots of hazelnut seedlings in the yard. I decided to keep a couple of them, one male and one female. The male has been producing catkins for several years, and now the female is finally reproductive age too. Yay! My hazelnuts have reached puberty!
Hazelnuts are very easy to grow, though it can be a challenge to find trees for sale or even to find information on growing them. A Google search turned up a few links with information, including these two:
- Introductory article from Martin's Yard & Garden
- Harvesting, Handling and Storing Nuts from the Home Orchard (pdf from Oregon State University Extension Service)
Neither gives clear growing instructions, so I'll include some here.
Hazelnut (a/k/a filbert) trees are understory trees, so they can tolerate some shade. Mine grow in anywhere from nearly full sun to half shade. They're extremely low-maintenance, requiring little to no supplemental water here in Portland. They appreciate a little fertilizer but don't require it. They seem fine with our local heavy clay soil, though I mulch mine with compost and fall leaves.
Males and females
A male and female are required for nuts, and only females produce nuts (I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere, but I'm not going to search for it). As long as there's a male tree somewhere in the area, the female should bear. I'm not sure how close together they need to be; mine are about 40 feet apart, but I don't think they need to be that close. When they are seedlings, males and females look the same. After a few years, males will start producing catkins (sort of furry, worm-like things, about 2-3" long--there's probably a joke in there somewhere too) in late fall. These will hang on the bare branches throughout most of the winter. I don't have any pictures of my male hazelnut, but there are a few good ones on Flickr, including this one.
As for finding trees... good luck. Until recently, it was illegal to sell hazelnut trees in Oregon or ship them to Oregon, because of efforts to control Eastern Filbert Blight. The ban was lifted a couple of years ago, when attempts to control the disease proved futile. The change wasn't well-publicized, however, so most nurseries still don't sell them. So how do you get one?
- If you know someone with a filbert, you can ask for a sucker from it (they spread into thickets).
- If you live near filbert trees, you'll probably end up with seedlings in your yard, but you may mistake them for weeds, as I used to. A Flickr seearch on hazelnut leaves turns up some pictures that can help you recognize baby trees. If you aren't sure, gently dig up a likely candidate and check the roots for the remains of the hazelnut. If the seedling is small (less than about 12" tall), part of the nut should still be there.
- If you don't want to go to all this trouble, leave a comment with your email address, and I'll make arrangements to send you some seedlings. I have several in my yard that I need to dig up.
- Finally, you can grow your own from fresh, raw hazelnuts. Just bury the nut and wait. But be patient. My female filbert is about 6 years old, and it's just now starting to produce nuts.