Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’
This twisted shrub is named for Scottish Vaudeville stageman [Harry Lauder] (b. 1870, d. 1950), who often performed with a gnarled walking stick.
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (also simply called contorted hazelnut or contorted filbert), is a non-fruit bearing cultivar of the common hazelnut or filbert. Its parent, Corylus avellana, is the species grown commercially for edible nuts.
The shrub itself grows in a spreading clump about eight to twelve feet high if left to its own devices. The deciduous leaves a broad and fuzzy with a serrated margin. Small, yellowish flowers bloom in early spring before the leaves come in.
It shines in winter. After the foliage drops, the corkscrew character of the branches takes center stage. In late spring and summer, reproductive catkins hang in dusty clusters along the branches and remain through much of the winter. It’s definitely a great specimen plant and fun to sneak into otherwise innocent-looking shrub borders.
There are quite a few of these around Raleigh, but the pictures featured in this post come from the plants at J.C. Raulston Arboretum.
And here’s one of Harry Lauder’s most famous songs, “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’”, from a 1911 release: