Filberts are the domesticated version of hazelnuts, and their beautiful male flowers are catkins, now at the peak of their bloom. They make pollen that is food for my early emerging honeybees, and a potent allergen for some people. The tree in my backyard was started from filberts originally planted by my great-grandfather, James Gunter, who settled in the Upper Smith River Valley in the Oregon Coast Range in the 1880's. Below is an excerpt from my book Blackberries in July describing those original trees in their present state. Because filberts are able to reach out and take root, and because they reach out to me, those trees will continue for some long time into the future.
From "Old Orchards" in Blackberries in July: A Forager's Field Guide to Inner Peace:
Navy blue Steller’s Jays call from a ridge above us. With alternating swoops and glides they descend to the knoll, where the two-story gray house once stood, to search for any remaining nuts in the remnants of the filbert orchard. I dimly remember filberts drying in trays around the woodstove, a burlap bag half-full of nuts leaning against the wall. For decades the filbert trees have cloned themselves, sending suckers up from their spreading roots, and these have in turn grown their own roots, so that now each original tree has become an outwardly expanding cluster of trees. Last winter Kim and I visited the knoll, removed some of the newly rooted suckers, and transplanted them to the last family-owned place on Smith River, the Johnny Gunter property twelve miles upstream. Peer closely into the center of each filbert clump, and the broken, decaying stub of the parent can still be seen watching from within.