Planning sites for new trees is easier when you know what to expect. The two main species of hazelnut grown in the United States are American and beaked hazelnut. The former is a rapidly growing ornamental shrub commonly misidentified as a tree. Beaked hazelnut is a larger species that can adopt both tree and shrub growth habits.
American hazelnut has a rapid growth rate compared to other shrubs its size. American hazelnut reaches an average mature height of 10 to 15 feet, with some specimens reaching 18 feet. Hazelnuts are perennial species that grow during the spring and summer months. American hazelnut produces multiple erect stems and has a relatively short lifespan.
The beaked hazelnut is a slightly larger species of hazelnut that has a long lifespan and modest rate of growth compared to the American hazelnut. It has an average mature height of 15 feet and grows multiple stems. Unlike American hazelnut, the beaked hazelnut can adopt the growth habit of a tree or a shrub.
American hazelnut is adapted to grow in fine or moderately textured soil. Moderate levels of resistance to drought and fire provides an extended level of hardiness. This plant grows best in neutral to mildly acidic soil with a pH range between 5.0 and 7.0. A tolerance for temperatures as low as -0.556 degrees C and partial shade supports a broad range of growing sites.
Beaked hazelnut prefers moderately textured soils and has a moderate level of drought tolerance. A higher resistance to fires and a greater tolerance for hedging offer a greater degree of hardiness than American hazelnut. Beaked hazelnut also tolerates a greater pH range -- 4.8 to 7.5 -- than its counterpart. This species is more tolerant of cold weather and prefers northern regions with temperatures down to negative 8.33 degrees C.
American hazelnut blooms during the spring months and produces nuts beginning in the summer. Seed maturation occurs during the fall with seeds ready to sprout in the spring. Nut production begins as early as the second year of growth. American hazelnut trees are propagated using seeds or cuttings taken from the roots.
Beaked hazelnut begins blooming during early spring and starts seed development during the summer, with nuts reaching maturity during the fall months. Propagation of this species is carried out using root cuttings or seeds. The seeds of both species of hazelnut require cold stratification to germinate. This process involves exposing the seed to cold before warming it up. This simulates the passage of seasons, ending the dormancy of the seed and preparing it for germination.
American and beaked hazelnut are found in locations throughout North America. American hazelnut grows throughout the eastern half of North America in a wide variety of ecosystems. Areas as diverse as Florida, Nebraska and Quebec are included in the range of this species of hazelnut. The beaked hazelnut has a more circumscribed range that reflects its cold tolerance. The range of this plant includes southern Canada and the northern United States. However, regions as far south as Alabama and Georgia support populations of beaked hazelnut as well.