I’m not sure whether I should call this plant a large shrub or a small tree, but either way our native Corylus cornuta (var. californica) has quite the late winter show and is a plant worthy of a blog post. It’s commonly referred to as the Beaked Hazelnut due to the shape of the husks around the edible nuts it produces later in the year, but it’s definitely most showy right now with its creamy yellow catkins drooping and grouped in pairs or triads at the branches ends. These catkins are the male flowers and the female flowers, which come on the same plant being monoecious, are bright red and threadlike but not as noticeable. This is a good native choice for segueing between a high-canopy woodland to an open area, not only because of its moderate size (in comparison to the forest) but also because of its preference for just a little shade, although it seems to perform fine in full sun as well (and too much shade will diminish flowering). It does also appreciate a site that is well-drained. The leaves that follow its winter show are alder-like in appearance, mid to dark green and serrated around the edges. Beaked Hazelnut is a suckering plant which can eventually develop many stems and grow wider than tall.
This is a great plant for wildlife, and one that was utilized by Native Americans for food, tools and medicine. Apparently it was used to help with teething, expelling worms, inducing vomiting and also as an astringent. However, my attorney advises that I recommend you see a qualified physician if experiencing such problems.
I will also point out that this is a plant grown commercially for its nuts. Now, if you’re ever on Jeopardy and the category is “Nuts over Corylus cornuta” you should have all the trivialities you need.