Jon Hawkins, Surrey Hills Photography


©Philip Precey


Scientific name: Corylus avellana
Hazel is a small tree of woodlands, grasslands and gardens that is regularly coppiced - the practice of cutting the stems of a tree to allow new shoots to grow. It is well known for its long, yellow catkins.

Species information


Height: up to 12m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


Hazel is a small, shrubby tree that can be found in a variety of habitats, such as woodlands, gardens and grasslands. It is famous for its long, yellow, male catkins (known as 'lamb's-tails') that appear in spring, and its green, ripening to brown, fruits (familiar to us as 'hazelnuts') that appear in late summer. These nuts are a favourite food of grey squirrels, dormice and wood mice, and some small mammals will cache their finds, storing them in burrows or old birds' nests.

How to identify

Hazel has shiny, brown bark and almost circular, toothed leaves with soft hairs on their undersides. It displays long, yellow catkins in spring, and provides a crop of hazelnuts in late summer.

In our area

Shropshire WIldlife Trust regularly coppice hazel trees across our Reserves. Hazel is most likely to be found on the edge of a woodland at sites such as Hope Valley or Harton Hollow. both support a large population of dormice. 

Coppiced woodlands provide excellent open spaces for wildflowers, which in turn attracts butterflies and other pollinating insects. The caterpillars of some moths eat the leaves of hazel, and many birds and small mammals find nesting spots and shelter amongst hazel stems.

Hazelnuts are an important food source for a variety of creatures including wood mice and nuthatches, and of course, the hazel dormouse. The catkins are a source of pollen early in the year for insects such as bumblebees. Hazel can also support lichens, mosses and fungi – a true ecosystem supported by one tree!



Did you know?

Coppicing is the practice of cutting the stems of a tree down to the base every few years, allowing new shoots to grow and providing a crop of wood. Hazel has been coppiced for 4,000 years and the poles used for wattle (canes woven into a lattice pattern) to make fencing, hurdles and the foundation of wattle-and-daub walls for houses. Hazel is still used today for making crafts, screens and even bean poles.

The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. A mix of coppicing, scrub-cutting, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland wildlife to thrive.

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