Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for American Hazelnut - Corylus americana   Walter
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Section 6 » Order Fagales » Family Betulaceae
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AuthorWalter
DistributionThroughout the mountains and Piedmont. Barely ranges eastward, though is present at a few scattered places in the Coastal Plain -- mostly in counties along brownwater rivers -- even in the eastern portions.

This is a very widespread species to the north of NC, occurring across eastern Canada and the US south through NJ, and through the Piedmont to central GA and eastern OK. It is scattered in the Coastal Plain of the Southern states. However, it does not range south to FL.
AbundanceFairly common to locally common in the Piedmont and mountains. It is not overly widespread, but it occurs in colonies and can be quite numerous where encountered. Very rare in the Coastal Plain (except close to the Roanoke River, where infrequent), limited to very rich soil areas.
HabitatThis is a species of circumneutral to slightly acidic soils, of rich hardwood forests and moist thickets. These forests may be rocky or not, but it is more numerous on slopes than on flats. However, it does occur in bottomlands west of the Fall Line.
PhenologyFlowers in February and March, well before the leaves emerge; fruits in August and September.
IdentificationThis is a medium-sized colonial, deciduous shrub that grows to an average height of 8-10’ high. It has widely ovate, toothed, and fairly large leaves, to about 4” long. They have a distinctive shape, being somewhat straight edged from the middle to the tapered tip. The catkins are present and blooming in late winter or very early spring, well before the leaves appear. The species has distinctive fruit, with a large nut (up to about 2/3” across) enclosed by several leafy, toothed bracts; several such nuts usually are found in a cluster. The main confusing species is the Beaked Hazelnut (C. cornuta), which has smaller leaves, grows mainly in drier and rockier forests, is barely waist-high and not head high or taller, and (if seen) has nuts enclosed in a long and narrow beak.
Taxonomic CommentsGenerally none

Other Common Name(s)American Filbert
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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