On Friday, I picked up three hazelnut trees from Burnt Ridge Nursery for my dad’s backyard. Did you know that the hazelnut is the official state nut of Oregon? Now you know. Oregon is the #2 producer of hazelnuts in the world behind Turkey.
Several decades ago, Eastern Filbert Blight killed most of the hazelnut trees in the Eastern U.S., so the Pacific Northwest became the center of hazelnut production in the U.S. Unfortunately, Eastern Filbert Blight eventually spread to Oregon and Washington. Fortunately, Oregon State University developed strains of hazelnuts that are resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight. We planted three such varieties on Saturday: Jefferson, Dorris (with two “r”s), and Eta. These are all varieties of Corylus avellana, or European hazelnut (as opposed to Corylus americana, which is American hazelnut and has smaller nuts).
The trees came bare-root and are each about 5-to-6 feet tall. We planted them 15 feet apart, as per the instructions. I suppose this is to maximize cross-pollination while still allowing them to grow to full height (they should only be about 20 feet tall at maturity).
Hazelnut trees need to be cross-pollinated by another hazelnut tree in order to produce hazelnuts, so it is important to plant more than one hazelnut tree. Pollination of hazelnuts is a bit complicated. A hazelnut tree has both male and female parts, but it is self-infertile (meaning it can’t pollinate itself). So, not only do you need at least two hazelnut trees, you need to have two different varieties of hazelnut trees. A Jefferson hazelnut would not be able to pollinate another Jefferson hazelnut tree.
Another tricky part of hazelnut production is that the process of making the hazelnuts takes nearly two years. The male parts of the hazelnut tree start forming in May the year before you will be able to harvest hazelnuts. They don’t mature until December or January, at which point they can pollinate a female which will then produce nuts the following August.
So, (hypothetically speaking) the earliest we could expect to get hazelnuts from the trees we just planted is August 2021. In actuality, hazelnut trees reportedly take about 6 years before they’ll produce substantial amount of nuts, so check back in with me in 2026.
As a backup, my dad also bought 1 lb of Yamhill seed hazelnuts. In case you’re wondering, 1 pound of seed hazelnuts is about 204 hazelnut seeds. He planted about 40 of them before running out of space to for them. We’re skeptical as to whether these will germinate, but if they do, he’ll have a hazelnut farm on his hands.