A couple of you, though, correctly identified it as a Beech nut hull. Good eyes, Jain and Nina! To be fair, anyone reading the post who lives west of Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, or Louisiana, or most of Canada (except the extreme eastern-most portion of the country) would not be familiar with the American Beech tree or its nut because it only grows in the eastern third of the continent.
I made this quiz a little tougher than it should have been, because the nut hull was photographed from a funny angle, and it was seriously sprung open. I don't know that I have any photos of a closed Beech nut, because they all seem to be open and empty by the time I find them.
I want to thank Ruthie and Julie, who both guessed different species of hazelnuts. After doing a little research, I can understand their guesses. The reason I am thanking them is because they helped me to identify the American Hazelnut. When images of that shrub's fruit popped up on my computer screen today, I said, "No way!" Ladies, you helped me identify something that I photographed 2 years ago but had no idea how to begin looking up.
American Hazelnut fruit, photographed August 16, 2008
I was very excited about this, because these photos were taken just down the road from my house. I had no idea hazelnuts grew in Ohio, let alone right in my own neighborhood! I walked down the road this afternoon and found the plant in the spot I remembered. I was able to locate and harvest a handful of nuts, but I would say most had already been snatched up by the local wildlife. Next spring I will be on the look-out for the teeny, tiny female flowers that the shrub produces (the male flower is a catkin, some of which were still hanging from the branches), and will try to harvest some more nuts earlier in the season before the squirrels, chipmunks, deer and Blue Jays, to name a few, beat me to them. I read today that they grow well in the shade, and are good understory plants. Hmmmmm.... we have lots of shade and understory plants growing on our property. Could be something to try establishing in our land.
Thanks, friends, for helping me learn something new!