Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the the August 30, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

The other day at a moist, overgrown woods edge in the valley I was tickled to see what's shown above. That's a Beaked Hazelnut, CORYLUS CORNUTA var. CALIFORNICA. It's the same Beaked Hazelnut occurring in eastern North America, the northern states and southern Canada, and the western tier of Pacific states. The californica variety, native to California and Oregon, forms a tree about twice as large as the shrubby eastern "typical" variety, but its fruit's "beaks" are shorter and thicker.

Of course hazelnuts, often known as filberts, are important foods everywhere, or have the potential for being so. Indigenous Americans throughout Oregon and California ate this variety and bartered the nuts to explorers such as Lewis and Clark in 1805, and botanist David Douglas in 1825.

The hairy, corolla-like coverings of the nuts are neither corollas nor calyxes, but rather modified leaves -- they're "leafy involucres." The female flowers from which the nuts derive are tiny, simple things remaining hidden in their buds, with only their red styles protruding.