Edible hazelnuts or filberts come from several trees that are part of the genus Corylus. Those species include the American hazelnut (Corylus americana), the European filbert (Corylus avellana) and Corylus maxima, the giant filbert. Though the European filbert is grown commercially in Oregon, only the americana species is native to the New World.
Hazelnut trees are wind pollinated. Both male and female flowers occur on every tree. The male flowers are "catkins," with an elongated, somewhat fuzzy-looking appearance. The female flowers are less noticeable, hidden in terminal buds on each branch. The male flowers shed pollen, which is then carried on the breeze to the female flowers' stigmas.
After pollination, the hazelnuts or filberts ripen on the tree. The hard-shell nuts are surrounded by a second layer of protection in the form of bracts that form a leafy or tubular casing.
Hazelnut trees are cultivated in the United States and Europe for their nuts, which are eaten out of hand, used in cooking and baking and pressed to extract oil. The shells can be used in bulk for mulch. Since ancient times, hazel branches or twigs have been used for dousing (locating underground water).
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