Oregonians have a lot of reasons to be proud of their hazelnut trees. The hazelnut is the state nut of Oregon, which produces 99 percent of all hazelnuts in the United States. Although many varieties of hazelnut, including trees and shrubs, are common around the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, the majority of commercial hazelnut trees grow in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Hazelnut trees in Oregon are also a proud source of local beauty. They feature lush green deciduous leaves and twisting storybook trunks that provide shade to countless Oregon neighborhoods. They can grow between 20 to 40 feet tall and come in a variety of shrubs and split-, forked-, or single-trunk trees. Their nuts are sweet and mellow, offering a quick snack or welcome ingredient to many desserts and dishes. Plus, with a bit of help from your local arborist or tree pruning service, such as Mr. Tree, growing hazelnut trees at home can be stress-free and rewarding.
If you’re considering planting or caring for hazelnuts around your home or are interested in learning more about this popular local tree, this article provides seven facts about hazelnut trees in Oregon.
1. Hazelnuts Are Named for Their Appearance
Whether you call it a hazelnut or a filbert, you’re actually describing the husk surrounding the nut of the hazelnut tree. According to Jeff L. Olsen’s introduction to “Growing Hazelnuts in the Pacific Northwest” (OSU Extension Service), the word “hazel” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word haesel, meaning “bonnet.” Likewise, the word “filbert” may come from the German word vollbart, which literally means “full beard.” Even its scientific name (genus Corylus) comes from the Greek word korylos or korys, meaning “helmet,” in reference to the hazelnut’s shell.
Nonetheless, a hazelnut by any other name would taste just as delicious and provide as many health benefits.
2. First European Hazelnut Tree in Oregon Was Planted in 1858
The hazelnut is actually native to Oregon. However, all varieties cultivated for their commercial production and distribution in the Pacific Northwest originate from Europe. According to Olsen’s introduction, in 1858, Sam Strickland, an English sailor and former employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, planted the first European variety of hazelnut in Scottsburg, OR. Since then, the hazelnut has enjoyed a storied and fascinating history in Oregon and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.
3. There Are Numerous Varieties and Species Grown in Oregon
Although the most popular and “traditional” variety of European hazelnut trees in Oregon is the Barcelona, there are nearly twenty other commercial varieties of hazelnut commonly grown. These include the Ennis, Clark, Jefferson, Dorris, Lewis, and Wepster varieties. Each features different characteristics in size, texture, and flavor of the nut, as well as height and appearance of the tree.
One native species of hazelnut in the Pacific Northwest is the beaked hazelnut. This species is famous, growing across the US and southern Canada. The beaked hazelnut, also known as the California filbert or western hazel, can be found growing in many Oregon neighborhoods.
For more information about commercial varieties, see Olsen’s “Growing Hazelnuts …” and the Hazelnut Growers of Oregon’s page.
4. Eastern Filbert Blight Is One of the Hazelnut’s Biggest Natural Threats
Hazelnuts aren’t invincible. Like many other trees, hazelnut trees in Oregon are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, including infestations specific to the hazelnut: filbertworm, filbert weevil, and hazelnut aphid. However, one of the most common and difficult to control diseases is eastern filbert blight (EFB), a fungal disease that only affects hazelnut trees. Note that several varieties and species resist it, such as the Dorris or Jefferson commercial varieties and the native beaked hazelnut.
EFB heavily affects commercial orchards in the Willamette Valley and can also affect home orchards, individual trees, and shrubs.
EFB is known for producing numerous tracks of cankers on the limbs and trunks of hazelnut trees. The fungus can cause gradual and irreversible dieback of the limbs and trunk of the hazelnut. Sometimes the infestation can exist for years in orchards before symptoms appear. Early detection is the best way to counter it. For more information about how to detect (and treat) eastern filbert blight, check out OSU’s pamphlet.
5. Willamette Valley Provides the Ideal Climate for Commercial Growing
You’re probably wondering why Oregon produces so many hazelnuts. European varieties flourish in moderate climates, specifically the climate of the Willamette Valley, where the majority of commercial orchards are located. And only moderate climates can provide the right conditions for a large hazelnut crop production.
On the other hand, other varieties, including native species of hazelnut, such as the beaked hazelnut, can withstand colder and more diverse climate conditions during their lifecycle, meaning that hazelnut trees can grow non-commercially throughout most of the US.
6. Hazelnuts Bloom and Pollinate During Winter
One unique feature of hazelnut trees is their blooming and pollination period. In late winter, hazelnut trees produce long, trailing gold or green catkins (male) and small spiny flowers (female), signifying for many Oregonians the beginning of spring. At this time, hazelnuts must cross-pollinate (meaning that wind, birds, other animals, and insects transfer pollen from one variety of hazelnut to another nearby) in order to produce their fruit. Hazelnut trees can take up to a year following pollination to be ready for harvest, and most commercial growers harvest in October.
If you’re an amateur grower or just trying to liven up your yard with trees, then growing several hazelnut varieties together can increase your chances of producing nuts in time for the holidays.
7. Hazelnut Trees Often Require Pruning
Ever wonder how some varieties maintain those winding and complex shapes? Young hazelnut trees require pruning to “train” them as they grow. This is so that a stable framework for the hazelnut can be shaped in the first two years after planting, as many varieties twist and spread outward, creating their beautiful structures. And if you’re caring for mature or older hazelnut trees and shrubs, pruning, trimming, and shaping can also protect them from damage or infestation and allow them to grow well in residential spaces.
However, knowing how or when to prune or trim your hazelnut tree can be a bit stressful for many home growers. That’s why relying on a local arborist or tree service in Oregon, such as Mr. Tree, to inspect, prune, shape, and trim can help your hazelnut trees flourish for many years to come.