Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta) – Food and Cover for Wildlife

Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta) – Food and Cover for Wildlife

Beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta) is an excellent source of food for wildlife. This shrubby, deciduous plant provides browse for deer and moose in the form of twigs, leaves and buds, and for many species of wildlife (and humans!) in the form of hazelnuts. The edible nuts are a great source of fat, fiber, and protein. The plants also provide great habitat for animals in the form of shelter – turkey, grouse, pheasants, and woodpeckers all utilize beaked hazelnut for both food and shelter.

This plant tends to be shorter than 15 feet, and prefers dry woodlands and forest edges. It can grow on the edges of wet areas, but prefers rich, well-drained soils. The roots of beaked hazel send up lateral plants, which compete with other plants in the area for light and moisture. These roots also help to reduce erosion, so beaked hazel is a great plant for both landscaping purposes and as a wildlife attractant!

You can find the nuts in late summer, but at this point they will still be green (but edible). The nuts are normally found in clusters of three, and each nut is surrounded by a shell. When left to mature, the nuts will turn brown.  They need to be cracked open out of their shells in order to be eaten – humans can use nut crackers or similar tools, but wildlife must work their way through the shells on their own. Wild hazelnuts can be collected and used in many recipes, including roasted hazelnuts, various types of stuffing with hazelnuts, various recipes with wild rice and hazelnuts (Minnesota classics, to be sure!) , wild nut soup, and more.

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