Dr. Dirr’s Tree Spotlight: Corylus fargesii- Farges filbert or hazel

Corylus fargesii

With the loss of Fraxinus, ash, to emerald ash borer and no resistance among the 22 U.S. native species; the uncertainty of long term performance of disease-resistant American elm cultivars; and the invasive issues attached to Norway maple and other species, new tree genetics are necessary.

I first witnessed 20 to 30’ high trees at Longwood Gardens in 2012/13 and actually begged for a few seeds. Was rejected on the basis that the species was collected in the wild from China and the host country needed to be reciprocated (assume with royalties), so could not share material. Continued sightings at the National Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum, Morris Arboretum and a west coast nursery indicated the species was being shared/distributed (without concern for reciprocity). All trees observed to date were higher than wide, similar to Tilia cordata in habit, the largest trees 35 to 40’ high. In its native habitat, trees reach 80 to 100’. I estimate 40 to 60’ by 30 to 40’ wide under cultivation.

Corylus fargesii bark

Bark is quite remarkable, akin to that of Acer griseum, paperbark maple, exfoliating in curls and papery sheets. Colors range from light brown, copper-brown to deep chocolate-brown. Exfoliation occurs on two-year-old stems through large trunks. The tree is more beautiful in winter than in leaf.

Corylus fargesii foilage

Leaves are 2 to 4’’ long, 1 to 2’’ wide. Medium green, turning yellow in fall, shaped more like an elm leaf than the typical rounded Corylus outline. Foliage has shown high heat and drought tolerance. The summer of 2016 in Athens, GA was the hottest on record with no rain for extended periods. Two, four-year-old trees in the Dirr garden showed no foliar stress.

Flowers occur in March on naked stems; the male in drooping 2 to 4” long, reddish brown catkins; the female barely visible at the tip of the bud. Fruit is a 1/2” diameter hard-shelled, edible, globose nut held in a 2 to 4” long tubular sheath (involucre). The Morris Arboretum shared numerous nuts with the author which, 4 years later, are still germinating. I continue to manipulate the pre-germination treatments that will produce uniform percentages. Seedlings grow rapidly, 4 to 5’ in a season. Cuttings have been almost impossible to root.

Corylus fargesii nuts

To date, Japanese beetles have not been an issue (a problem on Corylus). No foliar diseases or insect damage have been observed/reported. The species is resistant to eastern filbert blight, a fungal pathogen which devastates Corylus avellana, especially ‘Contorta’, Harry Lauder’s walking-stick.

Corylus fargesii

The species is cold hardy in the range of -20 to -25 F and is well adapted to zone 8, Athens-Atlanta. Trees in Chicago, IL, Boothbay, ME, Boring, OR, and Athens, GA attest to adaptability. Any well-drained soil preferably on the acid side is suitable. Trees in heavy shade are more open than those in full sun. Container-grown plants are easily transplanted.

The tree is available in commerce. Grafting and budding have been successful as has tissue culture propagation. Several vendors include Heritage Seedlings, Salem, OR and J. Frank Schmidt Nursery, Boring, OR.



  1. Christopher C Eisenhart says

    Well, clearly you are alive. You co-authored a book with my PSU advisor, Charles Heiser.
    I concur regarding Farges filbert (I have two!)
    But, I write regarding the Confederate series of deciduous azaleas. Dodd & Dodd are OOB, and finding sources for the whole series has been difficult. It seems only the Lee, Jackson, and Semmes are commonly propagated.
    Any thoughts? It is curious that Frederick O. Douglas merited inclusion. I suspect he corresponded with my great great great uncle, Samuel Simon Schmucker, a staunch abolishinist, who founded Gettysburg Theological Seminary and, subsequently, Gettysburg College. He converted a campus building into an infirmary to treat casualties from both sides during the battle at Gettysburg.

    • Dr. Michael Dirr says

      have walked the gettysburg college campus. love the trees. I grew most of the confederate series with admiral semmes and stonewall Jackson the best. excellent flower bud set from year to year. also have been easy to propagate. did you try transplant nursery, lavonia Georgia? also, lazy k nursery in pine mountain, ga. assuming you are serious about the entire collection, I will inquire next week as I travel to dallas for the southern region, propagator’s meeting.

      I continue to be impressed with corylus fargesii. was in maine in early October and there are two thriving specimens at the coastal maine botanical garden.

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  3. Laura Jull says

    We have Corylus fargesii here at the UW-Madison Arboretum Longenecker Horticultural Gardens. It is doing well here in zone 5a, formerly zone 4b. I love this tree and would like to get this tree into production. As you are well aware, emerald ash borer has wiped out our ashes and Dutch elm disease has plagued our native elms. I know of the new elms and am a fan of some of them from the Morton Arboretum. I see that you mention Schmidt’s Nursery is growing it, but I have not seen it in their catalog. I also checked Baileys and Carlton Plants and they do not sell it either. We should talk soon, it has been awhile since I saw you last. Laura

    • Dr. Michael Dirr says

      Ms. Jull,

      There is no doubt that Corylus fargesii can be a commercial tree. I agree with you about the demise of Fraxinus, ash, and what can replace them (if anything) in our urban environments. there are ~22 species of ash in the U.S. and none are immune to the emerald ash borer. multiple genera/species are needed to fill the gap/void left by ash. Nyssa sylvatica, Gymnocladus dioicus, and believe it or not, honeylocust, Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis and its many cultivars are being used in great numbers. I see oaks becoming much more important. A great case can be made for Quercus bicolor, swamp white oak. Our nursery industry has learned how to propagate clonal oaks by grafting and cuttings. in the southeast, clonal white, post, nuttall, Shumard, live, willow, Compton, and overcup are available. many years ago, one of my graduate students, John Drew, worked on own-root propagation of oak. John assessed rootability of 10 oak species with white being almost impossible, willow/overcup/live rooting at ~50%. several southeastern tree growers paid attention to this work and now produce only clonal own-root oaks. the nurseries are Select trees, Athens ga and Bold Spring nursery, Hawkinsville, ga. I visit both and always leave with a smile knowing that Masters’ research from UGA opened a whole new frontier in clonal oak production. many of these trees are now 25 to 30 years in landscapes and as vigorous as a seedling yet with consistent characteristics for which they were selected like habit, clean foliage, improved. fall color, etc.
      -Dr. Michael Dirr

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