1902 Encyclopedia > Hazel


HAZEL (Anglo-Saxon, Hœsel ;* German, Hasel; French, Noisetier, Coudrier), Corylus, Tournef., a genus of shrubs or low trees of the natural order Ctqndiferce and sub-order Coryleœ. The common hazel, Corylus Avellana, L., is dis-tributed throughout Europe, in North Africa, and in Central and Bussian Asia, except the northernmost parts. It is commonly found in hedges and coppices, and as an under-growth in woods, and reaches a height of some 12 feet; occasionally, as at Eastwell Park, Kent, it may attain to 30 feet. According to Evelyn (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 inches in length, downy below, roundish-cordate, pointed, and shortly petiolate ; occasionally they are found with the margins coherent at the base, or with the disk so depressed as to 1 Derived, it has been supposed, from Ang.-Sax. hœs, a behest, con-nected with hataii = Gsrm. heissen, to give orders : the hazel-wand was the sceptre of authority of the shepherd chieftain (iroifirjv XaSiv) of olden times. See Grimm, Gesch. d. deutsch. Sprache, p. 1016, 1848 form a pitcher-like structure (Masters). 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, and sometimes in October (Loudon). The cylindri-cal, drooping, and yellow male catkins (see BOTANY, vol. iv. p. 123, fig. 161) are 1 to 2| inches in length, 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, resembling leaf-buds, and have protrud-ing 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 J to f inch, and grow in clusters. Double or treble nuts are che result of the equal development of two or all the three carpels of the original flower, of which ordinarily two become abortive. Fusion of two or more nuts is not uncommon, and Masters gives an instance of the union, of as many as five. From the light-brown or brown colour of the nuts the terms hazel and hazelly, i.e., "in hue as hazelnuts " (Shakespeare, Tam-ing of the Shrew, ii. 1), derive their significance. The wood of the hazel is whitish-red, close in texture, and pliant, and has when dry a weight of 49 lb per cub. foot; 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, coal-corves 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 especi-ally 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 con-struction of hedges of hazel is the injury not infrequently done to them by the nut-gatherer, who " with active vigour crushes down the tree " (Thomson's Seasons, " Autumn "), and otherwise damages it.

The filbert, 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 (see ARBORICULTURE, ii. 322) 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 may be economically grown on the borders of planta-tions 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 feet by 8 has to be allowed for each tree. Ground good for hops is good also for filberts, according to Williamson, who recom-mends old woollen rags as the best manure for the latter (" On the Cultivation of the Filbert," Trans. Hort. Soc., iv, 145). 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 extre-mities of second year's branches, where light and air have ready access. In 1819, a very productive year, Williamson obtained from 57 trees, mostly not above six years old, and growing on 360 square yards of ground, 2 cwt. of nuts. To obtain a good tree, the practice in Kent is to select a stout upright shoot 3 feet in length; this is cut down to about 18 inches, 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 feet, so as. to form a bowl-like shape. Excessive luxuriance of the laterals may be combated by root-pruning, 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. In certain conditions of growth the trees may bear almost exclusively male or female flowers, and those produced in the first blossoming are stated (Gent. Mag., 1788, vol. lviii., pt. 1, p. 495) to be female only. The fertilization of the latter may be secured by suspending amongst them a branch with male bloom.

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 flower-pots. Their different forms include the Cosford, which are thin-shelled and oblong; the Downton, or large square nut, having a lancinated 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, were by Willdenow distin-guished as a species, under the name Gorylus 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. 24, xxiii. 78). Cob-nuts are short and roundish, and have a thick and strong shell. 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 per cent, of a colourless or pale-yellow, sweet-tasting, 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 per cent. Hazel nuts formed part of the food of the ancient lake-dwellers of Swit-zerland and other countries of Europe (see Keller, Lake Divellings, trans. Lee, 2d ed., 1878). By the Romans they were sometimes eaten roasted. Kaltenbach (Pftanzenfeincle, pp. 633-38,1874) enumerates ninety-eight insects which attack the hazel. Among these the beetle Balaninus nncnm, L., 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 chry-salis in the ensuing spring. The leaves of the hazel are frequently found mined on the upper and under side respectively by the larva? of the moths Lithocolletis coryli, Nic, and L. Nicelii, Sta. The tomtit has been observed to pass over the filbert whilst destroying other nuts (Darwin, Anim. and PI., ii. 231). Parasitic on the roots of the hazel is found the curious leafless Lathrcea squamosa, or Toothwort, of the natural order Orobanchacece.

The Hebrew word luz, translated "hazel" in the authorized version of the English Bible (Gen. xxx. 37), is believed to signify "almond"(see Kitto, C'ycl. of Bibl. Lit., ii. 869,andiii. 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 Tom Bergwerck (pp. xxix.-xxxi., Basel, 1557), gives an account, accompanied by a woodcut, of their em-ployment 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 Vani&re, who flourished in the early part of the 18th century, in the Prceclium Bustif.um (pp. 12,13, new ed., Toulouse, 1742) amus-ingly 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 Gay in Thurs-day, or the Spell, and by Burns in HMowccn. The hazel is very frequently mentioned by the old French romance writers. The Corylus rostrata and amerieana of North America have edible fruits like those of 0. Avellana. The "Witch Hazel is the species Hamamelis virginica (see vol. ii. p. 320), of the natural order Hamamelidece, the astringent bark of wdiich is used in medicine.

See Loudon, Arboretum, iii. 201G seq.; Gardener's Chron., 1850, pp. 101 and 652; C. M'llttosh, The Book of, the Garden, ii. 563, 1855; Syme, Sowerby's Eng. Bot., viii. 170, 1868; Masters, Vegetable Teratology, Ray Soc., 1869; J. D. Hooker, Student's Flora, pp. 363-4, 2d ed., 1878. (F. H. B.)


On the expression "hazel eyes," see Notes and Queries, 2d ser., xii. 337, and 3d ser., iii. 18, 39.
For derivations of the word see Latham's Johnson's Dictionary.

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