HAZEL (0. Eng. hcesel 1 ; cf. Ger. Hasel, Swed. and Dan. hassel, etc.,; Fr. noisetier, coudrier), botanically corylus, a genus of shrubs or low trees of the natural order Corylaceae. The common hazel, Corylus Avellana (fig. i), occurs throughout Europe, in North Africa and in central and Russian Asia, except the northernmost parts. It is commonly found in hedges and coppices, and as an undergrowth in woods, and reaches a height of some 12 ft.; occasionally, as at FIG ^Hazel (Corylus Avellana}. i, Eastwell Park, Kent, Female catkin (enlarged) ; 2, Pair of fruits it may attain to 30 ft. (nuts) each enclosed in its involucre According to Evelyn (reduced). (Sylva, p. 35, 1664), hazels " above all affect cold, barren, dry, and sandy soils; also mountains, and even rockie ground produce them; but more plentifully if somewhat moist, dankish, and mossie." In Kent they flourish best in a calcareous soil. The bark of the older stems is of a bright brown, mottled with grey, that of the young twigs is ash-coloured, and glandular and hairy. The leaves are alternate, from 2 to 4 in. in length, downy below, roundish heart-shaped, pointed and shortly stalked. In the variety C. purpurea, the leaves, as also the pellicle of the kernel and the husk of the nut, are purple, and in C. heterophylla they are thickly clothed with hairs. In autumn the rich yellow tint acquired by the leaves of the hazel adds greatly to the beauty of landscapes. The flowers are monoecious, and appear in Great Britain in February and March, before the leaves. The cylindrical drooping yellow male catkins (fig. 2) are i to z\ in. long, and occur 2 to 4 in a raceme; when in unusual numbers they may be terminal in position. The female flowers are small, sub-globose and sessile, 1 It has been supposed that the origin is to be found in O. Eng. has, a behest, connected with hatan = Ger. heissen, to give orders: the hazel-wand was the sceptre of authority of the shepherd chieftain (iroi.ii.tiv Xawi-) of olden times, see Grimm, Gesch. d. deulsch. Sprache, p. 1016, 1848. The root is kas-, cf. Lat. corulas, corylus; and the original meaning is unknown.
FIG. 2. Catkin of Hazel (Corylus Avellana), consisting of an axis covered with bracts in the form of scales, each of which covers a male flower, the stamens of which are seen projecting beyond the scale. The catkin falls off entire, separating from the branch by an articulation.
resembling leaf -buds, and have protruding crimson stigmas; the minute inner bracts, by their enlargement, form the palmately lobed and cut involucre or husk of the nut. The ovary is not visible till nearly midsummer, and is not fully developed before autumn. The nuts have a length of from 5 to in., and grow in clusters. Double nuts are the result of the equal development of the two carpels of the original flower, of which ordinarily one becomes abortive; fusion of two or more nuts is not uncommon. From the light-brown or brown colour of the nuts the terms hazel and hazelly, i.e. " in hue as hazel nuts " (Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew, ii. i), derive their significance. 1 The wood of the hazel is whitish-red, close in texture and pliant, and has when dry a weight of 49 lb per cub. ft.; it has been used in cabinet-making, and for toys and turned articles. Curiously veined veneers are obtained from the roots; and the root-shoots are largely employed in the making of crates, coalcorves or baskets, hurdles, withs and bands, whip-handles and other objects. The rods are reputed to be most durable when from the driest ground, and to be especially good where the bottom is chalky. The light charcoal afforded by the hazel serves well for crayons, and is valued by gunpowder manufacturers. An objection to the construction of hedges of hazel is the injury not infrequently done to them by the nutgatherer, who " with active vigour crushes down the tree " (Thomson's Seasons, " Autumn "), and otherwise damages it.
The filbert, 2 among the numerous varieties of Corylus Avellana, is extensively cultivated, especially in Kent, for the sake of its nuts, which are readily distinguished from cob-nuts by their ample involucre and greater length. It may be propagated by suckers and layers, by grafting and by sowing. Suckers afford the strongest and earliest-bearing plants. Grafted filberts are less liable than others to be encumbered by suckers at the root. By the Maidstone growers the best plants are considered to be obtained from layers. These become well rooted in about a twelvemonth, and then, after pruning, are bedded out in the nursery for two or three years. The filbert is economically grown on the borders of plantations or orchards, or in open spots in woods. It thrives most in a light loam with a dry subsoil; rich and, in particular, wet soils are unsuitable, conducing to the formation of too much wood. Plantations of filberts are made in autumn, in well-drained ground, and a space of about 10 ft. by 8 has to be allowed for each tree. In the third year after planting the trees may require root-pruning; in the fifth or sixth they should bear well. The nuts grow in greatest abundance on the extremities of second year's branches, where light and air have ready access. To obtain a good tree, the practice in Kent is to select a stout upright shoot 3 ft. in length; this is cut down to about 18 in. of which the lower 12 are kept free from outgrowth. The head is pruned to form six or eight strong offsets; and by judicious use of the knife, and by training, preferably on a hoop placed within them, these are caused to grow outwards and upwards to a height of about 6 ft. so as to form a bowl-like shape. Excessive luxuriance of the laterals may be combated by rootpruning, or by checking them early in the season, and again later, and by cutting back to a female blossom bud, or else spurring nearly down to the main branch in the following spring.
Filbert nuts required for keeping must be gathered only when quite ripe; they may then be preserved in dry sand, or, after drying, by packing with a sprinkling of salt in sound casks or new On the expression " hazel eyes," see Notes and Queries, 2nd ser.
337. ar >d 3rd ser. iii. 18, 39.
For derivations of the word see Latham's Johnson's Dictionary.
flower-pots. Their different forms include the Cosford, which are thin-shelled and oblong; the Downton, or large square nut, having a lancinatcd husk; the white or Wrotham Park filbert; and the red hazel or filbert, the kernel of which has a red pellicle. The last two, on account of their elongated husk, have been distinguished as a species, under the name Corylus tubulosa. Like these, apparently, were the nuts of Abella, or Avella, in the Campania (cf. Fr. aveline, filbert), said by Pliny to have been originally designated " Pontic," from their introduction into Asia and Greece from Pontus (see Nat Hist. xv. 2$, xxiii. 78). Hazel-nuts, under the name of Barcelona or Spanish nuts, are largely exported from France and Portugal, and especially Tarragona and other places in Spain. They afford 60% of a colourless or pale-yellow, sweettasting, non-drying oil, which has a specific gravity of 0-92 nearly, becomes solid at 19 C. (Cloez), and consists approximately of carbon 77, and hydrogen and oxygen each 11-5%. Hazel nuts formed part of the food of the ancient lake-dwellers of Switzerland and other countries of Europe (see Keller, Lake Dwellings, trans. Lee, 2nd ed., 1878). By the Romans they were sometimes eaten roasted. Kaltenbach (Pflanzenfeinde, pp. 633-638, 1874) enumerates ninety-eight insects which attack the hazel. Among these the beetle Balaninus nucum, the nut-weevil, seen on hazel and oak stems from the end of May till July, is highly destructive to the nuts. The female lays an egg in the unripe nut, on the kernel of which the larva subsists till September, when it bores its way through the shell, and enters the earth, to undergo transformation into a chrysalis in the ensuing spring. The leaves of the hazel are frequently found mined on the upper and under side respectively by the larvae of the moths Lithocolletis coryli and L. Nicelii. Squirrels and dormice are very destructive to the nut crop, as they not only take for present consumption but for a store for future supply. Parasitic on the roots of the hazel is found the curious leafless Lathraea Squamaria or toothwort.
The Hebrew word luz, translated " hazel " in the authorized version of the English Bible (Gen. xxx. 37), is believed to signify " almond " (see Kitto, Cycl. of Bill. Lit. ii. 869, and iii. 811, 1864). A belief in the efficacy of divining-rods of hazel for the discovery of concealed objects is probably of remote origin (cf. Hosea iv. 12). G. Agricola, in his treatise Vom Bergwerck (pp. xxix.-xxxi., Basel, '557)> gives an account, accompanied by a woodcut, of their employment in searching for mineral veins. By certain persons, who for different metals used rods of various materials, rods of hazel, he says, were held serviceable simply for silver lodes, and by the skilled miner, who trusted to natural signs of mineral veins, they were regarded as of no avail at all. The virtue of the hazel wand was supposed to be dependent on its having two forks; these were to be grasped in the fists, with the fingers uppermost, but with moderate firmness only, lest the free motion of the opposite end downwards towards the looked-for object should be interfered with. According to Cornish tradition, the divining or dowsing rod is guided to lodes by the pixies, the guardians of the treasures of the earth. By Vallemont, who wrote towards the end of the 17th century, the divining-rod of hazel, or " baguette divinatoire," is described as instrumental in the pursuit of criminals. The Jesuit Vaniere, who flourished in the early part of the 18th century, in the Praedium rusticum (pp. 12, 13, new ed., Toulouse, 1742) amusingly relates the manner in which he exposed the chicanery of one who pretended by the aid of a hazel divining-rod to point out hidden water-courses and gold. The burning of hazel nuts for the magical investigation of the future is alluded to by John Gay in Thursday, or the Spell, and by Burns in Halloween. The hazel is very frequently mentioned by the old French romance writers. Corylus rostrata and C. americana of North America have edible fruits like those of C. Avellana.
The witch hazel is quite a distinct plant, Hamamelis virginica, of the natural order Hamamalideae, the astringent bark of which is used in medicine. It is a hardy deciduous shrub, native of North America, which bears a profusion of rich yellow flowers in autumn and winter when the plant is feafless.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)