Scientifically known as Corylus Colurna, the Turkish Hazel has been widely cultivated as an ornamental tree in Europe and America.
The Turkish Hazel is native to the more southern parts of Europe and it is the largest species from the Hazel family reaching up to 25 m in height; the bark is pale and grey with a thick corky texture while the leaves are deciduous and rounded, usually up to 15 cm long, though they change from green in the spring and summer to brown in the autumn.
Tolerant of difficult growing conditions and urban pollution, the Turkish Hazel is often used in civic planting schemes though because the hard nuts are so small with a very thick shell, they have no commercial value; Turkish Hazel nuts are the poor relation of the Common Hazel regarding this but if you can get to one they are still just as edible!
Because the Turkish Hazel does not sucker – meaning there is no shoot growing from it giving rise to a new plant – it is ideal rootstock (with a healthy stump) on which to graft the much more nut-bearing Common Hazel cultivars and this has been done with a great deal of success in the UK providing us all with lovely nibbles at Christmas time.
The flowers come early in Spring before the leaves and they have single-sex catkins meaning wind will carry the pollen to female flowers, thus, the fruit of the Turkish Hazel is a nut enclosed by a shell concealing all but the tip and they are borne in tight clusters of 3-8 that are largely eaten by the Grey Squirrel in the UK.
Between Blackfriars railway bridge in London and the road bridge on its north side, there is one beautiful Turkish Hazel tree and another marvellous example in Gresham Street plus there are two quite unmistakable Turkish Hazels on either side of the path in Crystal Palace Park at post five on their fascinating tree trail – once you have identified this tree, you’ll remember it for the rest of your life!
Wood from the Turkish Hazel tree is used to make furniture and architecturally, the tree is very useful to the carpenter because it is of low maintenance and many urban agricultural schemes will use this manageable Turkish Hazel species too.
A delight to keep domestically, the Turkish Hazel is an attractive addition to any garden guaranteed to stand strong for many years, thus it is perennial and deciduous with yellow flowers blossoming in early Spring giving us the best quality wood, but only if it grows in the semi-shade with a little direct sun and medium levels of water.