top of page

Native Tree



Corylus avellana



A native species with many uses and an ancient history.

Hazel nuts are one of the foods associated with the very earliest human settlements in Ireland of Mesolithic man, who also used hazel as the strong flexible timber for his huts. Hazel bushes may be coppiced i.e. cut right back to a stump, and will re-grow.

The slender timber poles that result from coppicing were used in the construction of wattle and daub, and fences. Hazel is also a traditional material in the construction of eel and lobster traps.

Hazel grows as an under storey in oak and ash woodlands or as pure hazel woods.

Hazel scrub woodland covers extensive areas of limestone, particularly on the Burren plateaus of north Clare and soils derived from limestone in the Glens of Antrim. It is often associated with a rich ground flora of woodland flowers.

Hazel is well known for its yellow ‘lambs tail’ catkins in spring, but the nuts grow from small bud-like structures with a tuft of red – the stigma of the female flowers.


Collect from the wilder areas. The nuts are up to 2 cm long, pale green at first, ripening to pale brown and are borne usually in pairs, each between two overlapping light green bracts or husks. The first seeds shed by the tree are usually non-viable. It is best to collect the nuts directly from the tree when they begin to turn brown. Use a tool of some sort to pull down the branches e.g. a rake or use a specialised extending claw. When they are fully ripe, they will fall to the ground (or the tree can be shaken) and the nuts are then collected from the ground. But you need to be quick - it is amazing how fast wildlife will clean the woodland floor of all fallen nuts.


Use the flotation seed testing method to ascertain which (Corylus avellana) Hazel – Coll seed is viable, and which is not. Drop the seed onto the water surface of a bucket of water; if the seed floats it is non-viable and should be discarded. Only nuts which sink contain viable seeds.
Hazel should be stratified for 5 - 6 months before sowing (they can be sown immediately but are always under danger of being eaten by mice, squirrels or birds). The shells will then be ready to split naturally and can be transferred to the seed bed. If they are beginning to germinate you may be able to see the bright sulphur yellow colour of the radicle through the split shell. Check regularly from February onwards.
Remove the nuts from the husk (the "involucre"). It is best to stratify them straight away. If you must store them temporarily, do so up to 4 weeks in a hessian bag, plastic onion sack, or basket which allows air to circulate. Place in a cool dark environment. It is important not to let them heat up - try never to store them to a depth greater than 15cm. If you have to store 15cm or more turn the seed regularly (i.e. shake the hessian bag).


Use the broadcast method for growing a large quantity and then cover the nuts. Otherwise use a dibber and plant to a depth of the nut itself in a pot, container or a seed bed. It is crucial the sown nuts are protected from mice and game birds. The nutshell splits upon germination and pheasants can sniff them out and dig up the nut.

Click and learn more with Éanna Ní Lamhna!
bottom of page