The ninth letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet is C, for Coll (old Gaelic) or Calltain (modern Gaelic) Calltainn meaning hazel.
Hazel is the tree of wisdom, said to have been eaten by salmon, which gave them the knowledge to be able to swim out to sea and always find their way home again.
a nut in my hand
a tree in my mind
in the current
a salmon waits
for hazel wisdoms
a tree made the nut
the nut will make a tree
in the woods
life to life
fungus to fungus
I am no good at naming trees for you.
We walk along and look for hidden caves –
and I could call you Catkin, would that do?
My lack of nature feeling leaves me blue.
You crawl inside a cape of furry leaves –
I am no good at naming trees for you.
I bend right down, and toe my way right through –
You stand stock still, a girl who’s not so brave
If I could hug you, Catkin, would that do?
Together we locate the card, and you
will ask me soon, I know, to say the name –
I am so bad at naming trees for you.
Your childish vision makes the tree seem new –
It’s flowing skirts a magic hiding place –
And if I called you Catkin, would that do?
Oh well, it’s time we gathered up, and flew
back home, with nuts all stashed in place-
I am no good at naming trees for you –
But I will call you Catkin – will that do?
Vicky Soutar (written at Hazel Poetry Workshop RGBE 15 July)
Walking with poet;
Celebrate nature through trees.
Sentinels of age.
Snippets of lore
Hazel’s latin name is Corylus avellana. Corylus comes from ‘Koryl’ = helmet because the nuts sit in caps just like Roman soldier helmets.
There are 12 species of hazel around the northern hemisphere.
Hazel is closely related to the birch tree – both are in the family ‘betulaceae’.
Hazel likes damp ground and good soil and is often found growing with oak trees.
Honeysuckle loves hazel and primroses grow well under them.
Hazel flowers in January or February, earlier than any other tree.
Hazel catkins are sometimes called lambs tails. These are the male flowers.
Hazel’s female flowers, which will grow into nuts if pollinated (by the wind), have red styles, like tiny brushes or tassels.
Hazels leaves are on the trees for more months than most other native trees.
Squirrels, mice and voles eat hazel nuts, and store them for winter, often forgetting where they stash them, which is good news for the hazel.
Woodpeckers love hazel nuts. Both woodpeckers and hazel are much less abundant now than in the past.
Bears used to live in Scotland, and hazels nuts were an important food for them to fatten up on for winter.
Hazel is important for lungwort lichens. Graphis alboscripta is a lichen that grows only in Scotland, on hazel.
People are important spreaders of hazel trees.
Hazel trees live longer if they are coppiced. To coppice a hazel, cut its stems down to a few centimetres. The ‘stool’ will resprout and grow new poles.
A new hazel will grow by ‘laying’ a stem down from a tree.
To rive = to split a hazel pole long-ways. Ethers = hazel sticks used as binders for the top of hedges.
Hazel history 1: Otzi the Iceman’s backpack and arrow quiver were partly hazel.
The earliest people in Scotland ate a lot of hazel nuts. In Oronsay, the roasted shells of 300,000 hazel nuts were found in a pit.
Hazel nuts are full of protein and oil, and ground up make flour for biscuits. Bread made with hazelnut flour is good for long journeys.
Ground nuts in honey is good for a cough.
Woven hazel is called wattle. In the past, most people here lived in wattle-and-daub houses.
Hazel is used for spares and staples for thatching roofs with heather.
You should never cut hazel on a waning moon – the sap runs down and the wood is brittle.
Hazel is used for baskets and creels, coracle frames and ship fenders.
Hazel makes the best walking sticks. Some say a hazel walking stick can make you invisible.
Christian pilgims carried hazel stakes.
Use hazel for a talking stick (or is that a typo?!)
Hazel can be used for a caman (shinty stick) and a lump of boiled hazel root was used as a shinty ball.
Barrel hoops were made of hazel.
A hazel fork is the best weapon to use against a poisonous snake.
Hazel is used for ‘dowsing’ for water, or minerals – cut a fork where the sun has shone through from east and west.
Hazel is the tree of wisdom, science and poetry – hazel nuts will make you wise and help you overcome a creative block.
‘In a nutshell’ means the kernel of truth.