The Nire Valley

The Nire Valley
The Heart of the Comeragh Mountains.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Hazel and catkins.

Yellow Catkins
It is early February and we are drenched and wind swept. Spring seems to be forever away. However if you look closely there is one herald of spring who is pushing ahead and announcing the coming of longer, warmer days. It is the hazel tree. To the Celts the hazel symbolised wisdom and may be this small tree is wise in preparing for spring while we are all bemoaning a never-ending winter.
If you take the time to look, the hazel's, butter yellow, catkins are hung out like Christmas decorations. The catkin is the male part of the plant and the female part of the plant is a tiny, and I mean tiny, blood red bud. The pollen from the catkin,when blown by the wind, will stick to the female bud and from this a hazel nut will grow.
Hazel stand in winter
The hazel was once a commercially important tree in Ireland as its nut was a food source and its timber was used in building. If you coppice the hazel it will produce a multitude of straight stems which make ideal materials for upright poles in wall when building in wattle and daub. They are also used in basket weaving and thatching.
Hazels grow in wetter soils and thus are believed to have magical powers to find water and are favoured by water diviners to locate underground water sources.
Today the main commercial producer of hazelnuts is Turkey, where the produce around 625,000 tonnes of hazelnuts each year this is about 75% of worldwide production.
You can walk in the country at this time of year and look for the bright yellow catkins and in autumn return to pick hazelnuts.

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