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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

09 February, 2011

Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Whilst we can't help but see the male Hazel catkin we often overlook the tiny female flower which appears on the same tree.

This is actually much more like a conventional flower as it contains the seed box. The red 'petals' are actually multiple stigmas that catch the pollen released by the Catkins of neighbouring trees. The pollen then fertilises the seeds which grow and develop in to the Hazel nut, a favourite food of the squirrel and, of course, the Dormouse which is why, if you are looking for Dormice, you should look in Hazel coppice!

The Hazel, of course, is rarely allowed to grow naturally. It has always been a favoured source of wood for hurdles, fencing, thatching spurs, charcoal, even chair-bodging! As a result Hazel was invariable coppiced and cut down to ground level so that it re-shoots multiple thin stems, ideal for these old country crafts.

These days these crafts have all but died out and so coppicing is not practised as it used to be and often it is either left to becoming overgrown and straggly or it is just cleared and burnt to allow other plants to prosper.

Hazel coppice is such a rich habitat; especially in spring, when primroses, wood anemones, violets, bluebells and so on all thrive on the coppice floor.