Male and female flowers

posted in: Gardening | 33

…did you know that on some plants there are male and female flowers?


For example have you ever looked really closely at a Corylus avellena ‘Contorta’ stem in early spring? Or even just looked really closely at the common Hazelnut tree that grows in hedgerows?


We have lots of Hazel’s growing in the hedgerows here and most of them host lichen colonies. (Hazel is a very important host for lichens in Scotland.) But it wasn’t until I started taking macro photographs of the catkins and lichen that I noticed something quite interesting. There were 2 very different flowers on each stem!


These little red/pink tuffs really interested me. They were so tiny but ever so intricately shaped. Consequently I inquired on google. Not only did I discover that they were flowers but in fact female flowers!  Meanwhile the male flowers are the long yellow catkins which are heavily laden with pollen. Both male and female flowers appear in February when the tree still has bare twisted branches.


male and female flowers on corylus avellena contorta

The yellow catkins from the Corylus avellena ‘Contorta’ are the Spring male flowers.

male catkins

These are the male catkins from one of the many hazelnut trees along the river bank.

female flower on corylus avellena contorta

While the female flowers are the little sessile red tuffs on the bare swollen stems.


Pollination – Male and Female Flowers

  • The Hazelnut tree relies on wind pollination to transfer the pollen on the yellow catkins to the red female flowers. In February there are few if any pollinating insects flying as the temperature rarely reaches above 10 degrees centigrade.
  • It’s from these little fertilized red tuffs that the flower swells and eventually a hazelnut develops from. Usually you’ll see a few of the brown nuts on my tree in September.
  • A Hazelnut tree has cannot pollinate itself. Successful pollination is from neighbouring tree catkins.  This is probably the reason why I have few hazelnuts. The nearest tree is across the road in my neighbours garden … but not in the track of the prevailing wind.


male and female flowers on corylus avellena contorta

macro of female sessile red tuffs

yellow male and female flowers (pink) on corylus avellena contorta

Have you noticed these little tuffs before?



“There is a wonderful harmony in the divine Providence and all its disposals, so that the events of it, when they come to be considered in their relations and tendencies, together with the seasons of them, will appear very beautiful, to the glory of God and the comfort of those that trust in him. We are to believe that God has made all beautiful. Every thing is done well, as in creation, so in providence, and we shall see it when the end comes, but till then we are incompetent judges of it” (Matthew Henry 1662-1714).

Rosie Nixon
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Rosie is based in Perth, Perthshire as a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the Scottish outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at the only photographic gallery in Scotland - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh.

33 Responses

  1. Avatar

    Yellow catkin males and little sessile red tufts….I wondered where you were going with this post:) Your photos are perfection.

    Now I'm going to go click on the sessile link and see what it has to say.


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    Guess I'll have my own sessiles to look at in a few weeks. We have a lot of wild Trillium that grow in the natural area on the west side of our house.

    Thanks for the info.


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    jodi (bloomingwriter)

    Wonderful photos, Rosie. My Corylus is just getting ready to bloom for the first time. I promised I wouldn't look while its flowers and catkins were busy being promiscuous.

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    No I've never seen these small female flowers. They are so tiny but what a gorgeous color. Interesting info: male and female flowers flowers, both spring's miracles.

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    Edith Hope

    Dear Rosie, What an informative posting. Thank you so much. I was not aware of any of this until now and I shall, in future, look much more closely.

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    Hi Rosie, I don't know much about trees from colder climes but the info was fascinating. And like Donna said….your photos are perfection!

    Always a pleasure to be here. Hope you have a great week ahead!

  8. Avatar

    Beautiful photos Rosie! Very interesting too… I do not have this tree, but thanks to you I know it somewhat now. Happy Spring!

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    I did not know his. Now I'm going to be looking! An informative post with beautiful pictures. Thanks!

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    What a beautiful and informative blog you have here!

    Thanks for you visit and your kind comment…hope your Ninebark survives your winter! (we've had 4 months of snow and -30C temps, but I have a feeling mine will survive just fine…pretty hardy sort, it is ;D)

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    I don't think I have ever seen a hazel tree before, so these photos are doubly magical to me!! Such beautiful captures!!

  13. Avatar

    so tiny but so beautiful!!
    You've convinced me I've got to get one of these trees!!!
    beautiful post!

  14. Avatar

    This is an exotic plant to me … it's not something I'm familiar with at all. Amazing photos … they really show off all this corylus' beauty.

    Just a quick thanks for visiting my blog … glad you enjoyed viewing the Yellow Walking Iris and thanks for your lovely comment about the greenhouse garden … that's still very much a work in progress.

  15. Avatar

    They are so unique, I don't think I've seen them around here . But I know papaya flowers have male and female flowers.

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    Excellent post today. You are so right! Tree flowers are quite often overlooked! And they have a beauty all their own. ~karen

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    This is wonderful. I've never seen a hazelnut tree. The catkins remind me of our Salix, willows .

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    Isn't it wonderful when you discover something new about a plant you though your knew well? I love the tiny female flowers.

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    Tammie Lee

    wonderful to learn more about this. The little hot pink flowers are sweetly wild looking. How fun to see all your photos.

  23. Avatar

    Funnily enough, I was looking at my (ordinary) hazel today and noticing a few catkins, but I didn't see any female flowers. I shall go back tomorrow and look closer!

    You got some great pictures!

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    Hi again Rosie, great pics and info on the catkins. I don't have any in my garden but always enjoy seeing them 🙂

  26. Avatar

    Rosie, I must admit that I knew nothing about this! What an interesting post. Any your photos can't be beat!! Very pretty.

  27. Avatar

    Really nice photos, Rosie. Those catkins remind me of unripened mulberry fruits! Do these hazelnuts produce actual edible nuts?

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    Autumn Belle

    I like your interesting and informative post, especially about male and female flowers. Nature is fascinating.

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  30. Avatar

    Hello, Rosie. I had to go lookup Scottish Midges because I didn't know what they were.

    Now I know, and apparently the tourism bureau isn't fond of mentioning them.


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  32. Avatar

    Not related to this post but I just watched your little video hidden in your about me section! I love it!

  33. Avatar

    At that moment another vision was seen through the glass panels of the door. It was Hermione Roddice. Birkin went and opened to her.

    'What are you doing?' she sang, in her casual, inquisitive fashion.

    'Catkins,' he replied.

    'Really!' she said. 'And what do you learn about them?' She spoke all the while in a mocking, half teasing fashion, as if making game of the whole business. She picked up a twig of the catkin, piqued by Birkin's attention to it.

    'Do you know the little red ovary flowers, that produce the nuts? Have you ever noticed them?' he asked her. And he came close and pointed them out to her, on the sprig she held.

    'No,' she replied. 'What are they?'

    'Those are the little seed-producing flowers, and the long catkins, they only produce pollen, to fertilise them.'

    'Do they, do they!' repeated Hermione, looking closely.

    'From those little red bits, the nuts come; if they receive pollen from the long danglers.'

    'Little red flames, little red flames,' murmured Hermione to herself. And she remained for some moments looking only at the small buds out of which the red flickers of the stigma issued.

    'Aren't they beautiful? I think they're so beautiful,' she said, moving close to Birkin, and pointing to the red filaments with her long, white finger.

    'Had you never noticed them before?' he asked.

    'No, never before,' she replied.

    'And now you will always see them,' he said.

    'Now I shall always see them,' she repeated. 'Thank you so much for showing me. I think they're so beautiful—little red flames—'

    (From "Women in Love" (1920) by D.H. Lawrence)

    Thank you.

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