Hazel Trees

It’s not very often that you get to see a fully mature hazel tree, as it is frequently either managed by coppicing, or naturally coppices as individual stems break and die. As such it often appears as a mass of straight stems growing up from a thicker stump or “stool”.

This coppicing does not harm the tree, and in fact hazels that are managed in this way can live for hundreds of years. It also increases the yield of hazelnuts that the tree produces, and so coppiced woodland is a favourable habitat for many small mammals, including my personal favourite, the dormouse.

In addition, the extra sunlight that penetrates the canopy of a coppiced wood allows wildflowers to thrive and creates a warm, sheltered environment for many butterflies, including the fritillaries. Coppicing small blocks of woodland is an excellent way to manage the habitat for wildlife, and you can see a great example of this heading down towards the dam at Wimbleball Lake.

At this time of year hazel trees can produce an impressive display of male catkin flowers, which can assist in their identification. The bark has a silvery sheen, which may be tinged with a pink-ish colour. On older stems the bark develops cracks and fissures, and in damp conditions is often covered in moss.


It can sometimes be possible to confuse this bark with young downy or silver birch trees, but the leaf buds of hazel are much rounder and fatter and the shoots they grow on are somewhat hairy, allowing them to be distinguished from one another.

By Chris Eyles, Senior Warden for Exmoor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *