Get to Know the American Hazelnut

American Hazelnut (Corylus Americana)

The American hazelnut, also known as American filbert, is a native, perennial shrub with leaves arranged alternately along the twigs and can be found in the Crooked Creek subwatershed. The hazelnut may be found in all 102 Illinois counties.  It grows in moist prairies, fence rows, edges, dry woods and thickets. Flowers are produced in March and April. The seed, leaves, stems and buds of this plant are eaten by wildlife. Hazelnut grows in small, shrubby groups because it sends up new plants from the roots. The flowers are pollinated by the wind. The adaptable hazelnut prefers full sun to light shade, moist to dry-mesic conditions, and a variety of soil types, including those that are loamy, sandy, or rocky.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the simple, double-toothed leaves are oval in shape. Leaves turn yellow, orange and red in the fall of the year. The gray twigs and leafstalks are covered with hairs.

Faunal Associations: There are numerous species that find living space, shelter and/or food in or around American hazelnut. Many insects feed on the leaves, nuts, and other parts of American hazelnut. They include leaf beetles, weevils, walking sticks, stink bugs, plant bugs, lace bugs, aphids, leafhoppers, sawfly larvae, many moth caterpillars, and other insects (see Moth Table and Insect Table for a listing of these species). The caterpillars of the skipper Juvenal's Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) sometimes feed on the leaves. The nuts are eaten by such birds as the ring-necked pheasant, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, greater prairie chicken, red-bellied woodpecker, and blue jay. The male catkins and buds of American hazelnut are an important source of food during the winter for the ruffed grouse and wild turkey. Mammals that eat the nuts include the eastern chipmunk, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, red squirrel, white-footed mouse, and deer mouse. White-tailed deer and cottontail rabbits browse on the twigs and leaves. When this shrub grows near water, beavers use the stems as a source of food and in the construction of their lodges and dams. Because American hazelnut has a dense branching structure and large leaves, it provides excellent cover for various kinds of wildlife and ideal nesting habitat for many songbirds. The value of this shrub to wildlife is fairly high.