Friday, February 16, 2018

Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Hazel understorey at Hagbourne Copse, Swindon

Corylus avellana (En: Hazel, Sw/No/Dn: Hassel, Fi: Pähkinäpensas, Ge: Haselnuß, Du: Hazelnoot, Fr: Noisetier / Coudrier , Sp: Avellano, Po: Aveleira, It: Nocciola,  Pl: Leszczyna, Cz: Líska, We: Collen, Ir: Coll)

Hazel (Corylus avellana), female flower above, male below

Hazels can't self-pollenate, apparently, but I can't imagine that's much of an issue. When do you ever see a lone hazel?

I feel I want to say "hazel tree", but few hazels measure up to the normal definition of a tree as having a single bole that's at least a meter or two in height.

But William Wordsworth, in "The Green Linnet" (composed in the orchard at Town-End, Grasmere, in 1803) felt no such reserve.

Amid yon tuft of hazel trees,
That twinkle to the gusty breeze,
Behold him perched in ecstasies,
Yet seeming still to hover;

This is in May, when broad-leaved trees twinkle as the lighter undersides of the leaves are exposed. 

But because of the winter catkins, Jan-Feb is the time of year when you're most likely to notice just how much hazel there is. You'd think we'd be knee-deep in cob-nuts come autumn, yet that isn't what happens. Many hazel individuals deliver few or no ripe nuts, as far as I can see.

Hence the child William's exhilaration was about his newly discovered hazel grove being both fruitful and unplundered --- until now. 

Then up I rose,
And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash
And merciless ravage: and the shady nook
Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower,
Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up
Their quiet being:

(William Wordsworth, "Nutting" )

Some hazel individuals, I've noticed, seem to produce no male catkins. Nevertheless hazel is predominantly monoecious (male and female flowers on same individual), as my useless photos show.

Hazel sheen on regenerating coppice

If outside and in need of magickal protection quickly draw a circle around yourself with a hazel branch.

The loveliest thing about hazel, I think, is the grey-brown bark with its subtle silvery gleam. Seeing it, you can believe in the distant relationship of hazels (Corylus) with birches (Betula). It's one of those things you need to experience, you can't really capture it on a photograph. At any rate, I can't.

It's a good few years from when a child first learns to count to when they learn about their first irrational number - Pi, most likely. But a few years later the same child, if they carry on being interested in maths, learns that there are actually a whole lot more irrational numbers than there are rational numbers. (Infinitely more, in fact.)

I think it might be the same with the things you can't capture on a photograph: they're actually most of what there is.

If you have a wood-burning stove, hazel is a good but fast-burning wood. The wood can be used for small diameter carving and turning, but is best if it's been grown in a sheltered spot. Wind can cause splits and twisted grain.

Here's an attempt at a tiny anthology of hazel (contributions welcome!).

Hazel shares our European world as a partner -- in particular the same broad lowland bits that the bulk of humans inhabit, though the extracts from Scott's Lady of the Lake show that hazel is also an important presence in upland Britain. Hazel's culture and ours are quite intertwined. It's predominantly a working relationship.

A ship these hands have built, in ev'ry part
Carv'd, rigg'd, and painted, with the nicest art;
The ridgy sides are black with pitchy store,
From stem to stern 'tis twice ten inches o'er.
The lofy mast, a straight, smooth hazel fram'd,
The tackling silk, the Charming Sally nam'd; ...

(from Anna Laetitia Barbauld, "A School Eclogue")

Older bark on mature coppice

    The stag at eve had drunk his fill,
     Where danced the moon on Monan's rill,
     And deep his midnight lair had made
     In lone Glenartney's hazel shade;
     But when the sun his beacon red
     Had kindled on Benvoirlich's head,
     The deep-mouthed bloodhound's heavy bay
     Resounded up the rocky way,
     And faint, from farther distance borne,
     Were heard the clanging hoof and horn.   (Sir Walter Scott, The Lady of the Lake, Canto First ("The Chase"), St. I.)

  Here eglantine embalmed the air,
     Hawthorn and hazel mingled there;
     The primrose pale and violet flower
     Found in each clift a narrow bower;
(Ibid., St XII)

 And now, to issue from the glen,
     No pathway meets the wanderer's ken,
     Unless he climb with footing nice
     A far-projecting precipice.
     The broom's tough roots his ladder made,
     The hazel saplings lent their aid;
     And thus an airy point he won,
     Where, gleaming with the setting sun,
     One burnished sheet of living gold,
     Loch Katrine lay ...
(Ibid., St XIV)

  Mig finner ingen,
      ingen jag finner.
Alm, hägg, och hassel blomstra för vind.
   Jag ler åt alla,
      alla åt mig le.
Alm, hägg och hassel, lönn, sälg och lind,
    blomstra för vind,
    buga för vind
Ett vet jag bättre än klänga och springa
Det är att sjunga här under lind.

[Nobody finds me, I find nobody:
Elm, cherry and hazel bloom in the wind.
I laugh at all, all laugh at me.
Elm, cherry and hazel, maple, sallow and lind.
bloom in the wind, bow in the wind.
One thing I like better than climbing and springing:
that is to sing here under the lind.]

(from Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, "Tintomaras sång".  He responded with disarming frankness to those who pointed out that the named trees are not all early flowerers.)

I steal by lawns and grassy plots, I slide by hazel covers; ...
(Tennyson, "The Brook")

med og uden Kjerne, dog til Tidsfordriv,
plukkede af min henvisnede Livs-Busk,
Henrik Wergeland.

(Book title, by Henrik Wergeland, 1845. Translation: Hazelnuts, with and without kernels, written as a pastime, gathered from my own bush of life, by Henrik Wergeland, Christiania.)

"Tomorrow," he continued, half amused, half thoughtful, "I know whose white brows will be knit, and whose red lips will pout. Well, they shall have their turn: but blue eyes are not always in season; hazel eyes, like hazel nuts, have their season also."
(Christina Rosetti, "The Lost Titian")

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,....
(beginning of W.B. Yeats, "The Song of Wandering Aengus") 

Male catkins

               .......and the never-dry,
Rough, long grasses keep white with frost
At the hilltop by the finger-post;
The smoke of the traveller’s-joy is puffed
Over hawthorn berry and hazel tuft.
I read the sign. Which way shall I go?
A voice says: You would not have doubted so
At twenty. Another voice gentle with scorn
Says: At twenty you wished you had never been born.
(from Edward Thomas, "The Sign-post")

When the black herds of the rain were grazing,
In the gap of the pure cold wind
And the watery hazes of the hazel
Brought her into my mind ...
(from Austin Clarke, "The Lost Heifer")

Regenerating hazel coppices

Like a yowdendrift so’s I couldna read
The words cut oot i’ the stane
Had the fug o’ fame
An’ history’s hazelraw
No’ yirdit thaim.

[ snow driven by wind, so I couldn't have read
the words cut on the stone
even if the moss of fame
and history's lichen
hadn't buried them.]

(from Hugh MacDiarmid, "The Eemis Stane". In the Dictionary of the Scots Language "Hazelraw" is said to be specifically the epiphytic lichen Lobaria pulmonaria , named for growing on hazels, but that doesn't fit very well with the poet's image of it growing on stone.)

Docking and grading now until after dark
In the green field or fold, there was too much work
For the mind to wander, though the robin wove
In the young hazel a sweet tale of love.
(from R.S. Thomas, The Airy Tomb)

övergivenhetens vind! ett slags tecken för ingen! en sådan hassel är du!

from the poem "Late hazel" by Gennadiy Aygi (Chuvash-Russian poet, 1934 - 2006), quoted by Katarina Frostenson in Tre vägar.

Mature hazel coppice among standards

Bark on young growth

Hazel (Corylus avellana), female flowers above, male below

[The "green linnet" William admired in the orchard in 1803 was the bird now usually called a greenfinch (Chloris chloris). According to Wikipedia "The song contains a lot of trilling twitters interspersed with wheezes, and the male has a 'butterfly' display flight".]

The catkins at a slightly earlier stage. Swindon, 29 January 2021.

Developing hazelnuts, about twenty of them. Frome, 5 July 2023.

Hazel leaf. Frome, 25 November 2023.

The infinite subtle variety of hazel leaves.

Hazel leaf. Frome, 25 November 2023.

Hazel leaf. Frome, 25 November 2023.

Hazel leaf. Frome, 25 November 2023.

Hazel leaf (underside). Frome, 25 November 2023.

A hazel shoot. Frome, 2 December 2023.

There's an asymmetry in most hazel leaves that is related to which side of the shoot they're on; whether they are a "left" leaf or a "right" leaf (when looking down on the shoot from the end, as in the photo above). This affects the venation. If you look towards the base of the leaf's central vein you'll see that the lowest node is "opposite", i.e. side veins spring to both sides. But thereafter the nodes become alternate, i.e. a side vein to one side, then to the other... The lowest of these alternate side veins is on the same side as the leaf's position in relation to the shoot. Thus on a left leaf the lowest alternate node springs to the left; on a right leaf the lowest alternate vein springs to the right.

That was really hard to explain!

Hazel leaf on the left side of the shoot. Frome, 2 December 2023.

A "left" leaf, with the lowermost alternate node springing to the left.

Hazel leaf on the right side of the shoot. Frome, 2 December 2023.

A "right" leaf, with the lowermost alternate node springing to the right.

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