Corylus americana, American Hazelnuts.

Corylus americana, American Hazelnut is conspicuously in full bloom in mid to late winter. The male and female flowers, while very different in appearance are found on the same tree. The male or staminate flowers are crowded into dangling 3-4-inch long catkins, with dozens of tiny male flowers crowded in groups of threes on the catkin. Catkin is a word derived from a fifteenth century Dutch word for kitten, because these catkins are soft and fuzzy like a kitten's tail. The very tiny female flowers are hidden beneath small swollen buds along or at the end or branches. The buds are covered with small overlapping scales that hide the female blooms within. Only the bright red styles are visible, though one has to look very close to see them. In autumn, two or more nuts are crowded together in clusters, encased by what looks like a folded, jagged-edge leaf. Once those leafy encasements begin turning brown, that's the time to harvest the treasure within—hazelnuts. If you don't harvest then, forget it, as critters are happy to grab them before fully ripen. Ever seen hazelnuts on the ground despite their abundance in our forests?

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