hazel defined in 1944 yearhazel - Hazel;
hazel - G. Haselnuss; F. Coudrier; W. Collen; E. Coll.Although of rare occurrence as a true tree, being naturally of a shrubby habit of growth, the Hazel has, in the past, been of great importance in the woodlands of southern England. It is commonly seen as a tangle of slender stems, springing from a common base or stool, to which they are cut back at regular intervals of about 7 years. The pale brown, downy twigs, bear rounded alternate buds, which open in April into simple, short-stalked, broad leaves, with a doubly serrated edge and ending in a small point. The leaves persist until November, turning yellow before they fall.
The flowers are the earliest of all, opening in January. The male flowers hang in long yellow-brown catkins from the bare stems; each scale bears eight stamens, with abundant pollen which is spread by the wind, The female flowers, borne on the same tree, are very dissimilar. Each catkin resembles a leaf-bud, with bright red stigmas projecting from the tiny flowers clustered within. After fertilisation, the scales at the base of each flower enlarge to form a green leafy cupule, whilst at the same time the walls of the ovary expand and harden. The brown clustered nuts, oval in shape and about an inch long, turn brown in October, when they are gathered and eaten as Cob-nuts. Certain strains were formerly planted in Kent, chosen for their choice nuts and heavy bearing. In a wild state the seed is distributed by birds and animals.
Native to southern Britain, the Hazel is distributed throughout Europe. Allied species occur in North America, and an interesting Tree Hazel is found in the Balkans and Asia Minor.
The nuts are sown the spring after collection, and about 80 go to the lb. The cotyledons remain below ground, and growth in the first year is usually sufficient for the seedlings to go out to the forest in the following autumn or spring. To establish coppice, they should be set in close groups of 2 or 3, with about 10 feet left between groups. After their first season in the open, i.e. when they are 2 years old, they should be cut back almost to the base, when they will coppice freely.
Hazel requires moderately good soil, but is not particular as to its character, thriving equally well on loam or chalk. Drainage must be good, but frost and wind are not serious factors, and it has few natural enemies, apart from rabbits. It succeeds best on warm sites with a southern aspect; moderate shade does not retard its growth, especially when once established. Hazel is unsuitable for town planting.
As it does not attain timber dimensions, the utilisation of Hazel differs greatly from that of other trees. It is usually sold by the acre to hurdle-makers and others who work in the open-air and convert it to the finished product on the spot. The value of Hazel coppice depends on the average size of the shoots, which must be just thick enough for use, for if too thick they lose their pliancy, and hence their value falls rapidly. It is, therefore, important for the woodman to see that the coppice blocks are cut over at the right age and in the proper rotation (7 to 15 years).
The most valuable product made from Hazel is the hurdle, used for folding stock or as a protective screen in gardens, etc. Its manufacture requires great skill, as the natural pliancy and shrinkage of the wood must be so disposed as to hold all the component rods together. The rods rejected for this purpose are converted into bean rods, crate rods, props, or split into thatching spars. A mass of twig and leaf from the tops is left on the ground. This, together with the annual leaf fall of the coppice, maintains and gradually improves the fertility of the soil.
In the past, Hazel coppices were of great economic value. When wire-fencing was unknown and large numbers of sheep had to be folded in yards or on turnip-fields, Hazel hurdles were essential to agriculture in many parts of the country. Hazel rods were also employed in the construction of wattle-and-daub huts and half- timbered buildings, being especially valued in chalk areas where timber, stone, and brick clay were all hard to come by. Such coppices were seldom retained in their simple state, for standard trees of oak and ash were allowed to grow through them at regular intervals to provide big timber for building construction, on the Coppice-with-Standards system.
Under present-day conditions the value of Hazel coppice is problematical. Its utilisation depends entirely on the skill of the hurdle-maker and his fellow craftsmen, skill which would be better repaid in many another occupation; fortunately enough men are attracted to the work by its freedom and out-of-door nature to keep the craft alive. But much coppice has been so spoilt by undercutting, over-cutting or cutting out of season, together with rabbit damage, that it is profitable neither to landowner nor hurdle-maker, and is only suitable for conversion to High Forest.
On the whole, it is only advisable to establish new Hazel coppices in areas where the existing area is inadequate to the demands of agriculture. Elsewhere, only those coppices which are fully stocked and worked on a regular rotation, can be profitably maintained. The nuts are seldom of economic importance.
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