Saturday 8 April 2023

A to Z challenge - H is for . . .


A to Z challenge 2023 – H is for . . .

My theme for this challenge is Nature in all much of her wonderful diversity. My posts will reflect the fact that I am resident in the south of England.

All photographs in this post are the property of the writer.

H is for Hazel (Corylus avellana) . . .

. . . or more specifically, Corylus avellana contorta

The corkscrew hazel is a deciduous small tree with twisted stems. The green catkins turn yellow in the late winter, preceding the soft green leaves.

                                     Immature green catkins

The long catkins are affectionately called lambs’tails, which they somewhat resemble as they dance in the breeze. Although they are a rich source of pollen for pollinators, bees can only collect the pollen in small quantities because the individual grains are not sticky and actually repel each other.

                                            Lambs' tails
The nuts ripen in late summer or early autumn and are enjoyed by a variety of creatures, including squirrels, jays, titmice and nuthatches.

Developing nut encased in green leafy husk

The hazel is reputed to be a magical tree and in Ireland it is revered as the ‘Tree of Knowledge’. Hazel wands are used for water-divining and repelling evil spirits. In mediaeval times hazel was a symbol of fertility while in some parts of England hazelnuts were carried as charms against rheumatism. Using a hazel twig to stir jam when it’s cooking prevents the fairies stealing it!

                                Nuts grow in clusters of two to four

A well-known name for the corkscrew hazel is Harry Lauder’s walking stick.

Harry Lauder (1870-1950) was born in the coastal suburb of Portobello in Scotland. He spent ten years as a coal miner and often sang to the miners to entertain them. They persuaded him to perform publicly and eventually he was able to become a professional singer and achieved great success, singing Scottish songs and becoming the highest-paid entertainer in the world in 1911.

He performed on stage in full Highland regalia – kilt, sporran, tam o’shanter and cromach or walking stick, in his case a twisted cane. One of his biggest hits was a song he wrote himself, called ‘I love a lassie.’

His son died on the Western Front in 1916 and Harry Lauder devoted himself to fund-raising for the war effort. He raised vast amounts and was knighted in 1919.

Churchill called him ‘Scotland’s greatest ever ambassador’ and when Lauder met him as the House of Commons, he pleaded the case for better treatment for pit ponies.


My second H is also a tree, Hakuro Nishiki, more properly Salix integra ‘Hakuro-nishiki’. 

It is often known as the flamingo tree or shrimp willow. 

It is a small deciduous tree with very pretty foliage of variegated green, cream and white with pink leaf tips, turning to green and white in summer. When the leaves fall in autumn, the stems shine orange.  

Leaves beginning to develop their pink tips in spring

Small yellow catkins appear in early spring before the tree comes into leaf.

It is very easy to propagate from cuttings and although it is very attractive, it has no known value to British wildlife. It also needs to be pruned two or three times a year.


Finally, H is for the Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus)

Holly blue on holly leaf

This is a very small butterfly, easily identified as it emerges long before other blue butterflies. It has a darting, restless flight, flying high around bushes and trees. In spring, from March to May it is usually seen around holly bushes, the food plants of the caterpillars.

Holly blue on ivy leaf

 In the second generation in the summer, between July and September, it is found near ivy, which is the food plant for caterpillars of that generation.

It is often difficult to spot . . .

 . . . until the photograph is cropped . . .
. . . and cropped again!

Holly blue numbers fluctuate greatly because the ichneumon wasp kills the larval stage. Then, when the wasp’s food supply has been affected, the holly blue population recovers.

It is a common butterfly, primarily found in the southern half of the British Isles, and widespread in England and Wales. If in doubt about the correct identification, as I frequently am, it is helpful to remember that the Holly blue has black spots on the undersides of its wings, while all other blue butterflies have orange spots (but will I? Remember, that is)


  1. Those trees with twisted stems sort of looks quite artistic!

  2. They are lovely trees, quite slow-growing, but the straight stems have to be pruned out.

  3. Yet another interesting posts about some of nature's bounty. I love the name Harry Lauder’s walking stick for corkscrew hazel as well as Mr. Lauder's story, as he wasn't known to me. xxx

    1. I was surprised that it is still called Harry Lauder's walking stick as there can't be many who now remember him.

  4. I have a corkscrew hazel in my garden. The branches are perfect for hanging Easter eggs.

  5. I've never seen hazel before. I love those corkscrew branches. Fascinating.

  6. What a wonderfully informative post - and gorgeous photos. I feel like I've been on a lovely restorative walk in nature and discovered some very beautiful things.

  7. How kind of you to say. Thank you.

  8. are hazel nuts and cob nuts the same thing? F wanted to grow some hazels at the allotment but decided that it would only end up feeding grey squirrels.

  9. Hazel nuts, cob nuts and filberts are all the same nut, just differently enclosed in their husks, so far as I can see.
    Squirrels do love them so that's why we've got so many saplings all over the place, because the squirrels bury the ones they don't eat. Likewise acorns.

  10. Your photos are amazing. That's a sad, yet inspirational story about Harry Lauder. To lose your child, yet still care about and work to the benfit of other creatures, has to be the mark of an extraordinary person.

  11. So many young people, mostly men, were lost in the Great War - very sad.


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