How To Grow A Native Beaked Hazelnut Bush

Two beaked hazelnuts growing on a tree
(Image credit: Joe Riederer)

Beaked hazelnut, also known as beaked filbert, is a native North American shrub that produces an edible nut. It’s a nice choice for native plantings, woodland gardens, and hedges. As a native species it is easy to grow, but it does require some maintenance to keep it looking tidy.

About Beaked Hazelnut

This species of hazelnut, Corylus cornuta, is native to most of Canada and the U.S. It is a deciduous shrub that can be small to large. It ranges in height from four to 25 feet (1.2 to 7.6 m) depending on the location and conditions.

Beaked hazelnut is deciduous with ovate, toothed, bright green leaves that turn yellow in fall. The flowers emerge in spring and include long male catkins and smaller female flowers with bright red stigmas. The nut is what gives this hazelnut its name. The husk surrounds the round nut with a protrusion that looks like a beak.

Are Beaked Hazelnuts Edible?

Yes, these are edible hazelnuts, although many people leave them for wildlife to enjoy. Commercial hazelnuts come from hybrids and are larger but have a similar flavor. You can harvest beaked hazelnuts in fall and roast them for eating.

Is There a Beaked Hazelnut Tree?

There is just one plant with this name, and it is generally considered a shrub. However, it can be grown as a small tree because it has the potential to grow tall. It can be trained for one main branch and regularly trimmed to maintain more of a tree shape.

Beaked Hazelnut vs American Hazelnut

Corylus americana, American hazelnut, is native to eastern North America and is also a shrub that can grow tall like a tree. The easiest way to distinguish it from the beaked variety is by the nut case, which does not have the protrusion.

Growing and Caring for Beaked Hazelnut

This is a great choice if you’re looking for a native shrub or small tree. It’s great for natural or woodland plantings. You can also grow it as a hedge. Use beaked hazelnut to support and attract native wildlife, including birds, pollinators, and small mammals.

Beaked hazelnut grows well in USDA zones 4 through 8 and anywhere it is native. It is not native in the southwest, or southern plains states. It is found naturally in wood edges, thickets, and clearings, and along streams.

In the home garden, it will do well in most spots. Beaked hazelnut is not too particular about soil, but it will not tolerate heavy clay. It grows best in rich soils with good drainage, some acidity, and medium moisture. It prefers full sun to partial shade.

Getting it Planted

You can start beaked hazelnut from seed, but it will take some time to grow into a large shrub. Look for nurseries that supply native plants to get a larger transplant. Once you have it in the ground, provide water for the first season as it establishes strong roots. After that, it will not require much care.

One area of maintenance you will need to consider with beaked hazelnut is trimming or pruning. You can let it grow naturally, but it spreads readily by suckers and creates dense thickets. If you want a tidier growth habit, trim back the suckers regularly.

If you plant to harvest the nuts, look for them to be ready in fall. You can trim them off or wait for the nuts to drop. If you wait, the squirrels might get to them first. Once harvested, let the nuts dry fully in their shells before storing them. This can take a week or more. Dried, you can store hazelnuts to enjoy for months to come.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.