American hazelnut is native to eastern North America.
Identification: Typically a large multiply branched shrub
almost spherical in shape and 8-12' (2.4-3.7 m) high, this
hazel sometimes takes the form of a small tree. Leaves are alternate, heart-shaped, with double
serrations, 2½-5" (6.3-12 cm) long. They are dark green, turning bright yellow to copper-colored in the fall.
Hazelnuts are dioecious: male and female flowers appear on separate plants.
Male flowers are yellow-brown catkins up to 8" (20 cm) long and ⅛" (5 mm) around. Female flowers are red, occurring on the tips of twigs, and only about ¼" (6.3 mm) around. Nuts are in small groups of 1 to 4, each about ½" (1.3 cm) around and
individually wrapped in a ragged "sack" or husk.
Edibility: Hazelnuts from this species are edible. They are not as large
as those from cultivated varieties, but they are just as tasty. The thick shells contain a small, sweet kernel,
which may be eaten fresh, roasted, or pressed for an edible oil.