Hazelnuts Grow in Shetland

by Misa Hay -

On a recent routine visit to the Loch of Voe Community Woodland (at the A970 Vidlin junction), Shetland Amenity Trust Woodlands staff were surprised to come across a few ripe hazelnuts on a shrub, in a stand of about one or two dozen hazels. 

It is known that these were planted in either 1998 or 1999, and the seed origin of the saplings was Torridon, in the North West Highlands.

Shetland has two "relict" hazels still growing in the wild; neither is known to have fruited, which is not surprising as they are far apart (at Catfirth, Nesting and at Punds Water, Northmavine) and hazels are not self-fertile.

Also there is some evidence that hazels require a September average temperature of about 12ºC in order to set viable fruit - Shetland has an average September temperature of 10.5ºC – and last summer was not particularly warm. 

However, the fact that these hazels are in a sheltered spot, will mean that they are in a warmer microclimate than the Lerwick Observatory, where temperature records are taken.

Woodlands Project Manager, James MacKenzie, would be keen to hear if anyone has any evidence of ripe hazelnuts having been produced outdoors in Shetland. James said “We do know that nuts have been found buried in peat, coincidentally also near Voe, and that hazel was probably widespread in Shetland between about 9000 and 4500 years ago

“If it turns out that these few nuts found last Wednesday are the first recorded ripe ones since that time, then it seems a quite remarkable event - and could guarantee the future of hazel in Shetland as a woodland and garden shrub with several useful purposes.”