Is It A Burgler, A Meteorite Shower, A Machine Gun Attack

White Oak

As it turns out, I’m not the only one noticing the heavy laden branches of our Oak Trees. The folks at North Carolina State University College of Agriculture are busy answering questions about the recent abundant crop of acorns. They call it masting. For every man, woman, child, and animal it means walking through a battle field if you are anywhere close to one of these trees. At night, your roof is bombarded with a constant pelting racket from these little nutty bombs. How come so many this year?

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings replied with a question to a post of mine about the danger of these White Oaks during a hurricane. You can read that post here.

Dee ask, ” Anna, that was great info about why the trees are so vulnerable and their genetic makeup.  I knew neither of those things.

I have a question. Here, folks say that when we have many acorns, the trees are stressed from drought and trying to replicate themselves.  Is that true?~~Dee”.

My answer to Dee is yes and no. I’ll try to answer and give you facts as best I know them. All trees do grow deeper roots during a drought thus trying to reach lower under ground water levels resulting in a healthier tree during acorn forming periods. However it is cyclic for oak trees to have an abundant crop every 3 to 4 years. The large production of acorns during these cycles means more left uneaten to ensure the species. White Oaks are abundant this year while Red Oaks were noticed last year.White oaks sprout just after falling while red oaks do not sprout till the next spring.

Full sun produces more acorns. In years of drought, surrounding trees may not be as leafy thus giving the oak more sun. It is noted that during years of drought the nut of the oak will be smaller in diameter even if it is an abundant cycle year. That is exactly what is happening in our area of NC this Autumn.

We are in a cycle of abundance for the White Oak but the nuts are small. They are harder to collect when they are small because they escape through the fingers of the rake. It takes twice the effort to gather them up. Some folks just leave them on the lawn for the squirrels to eat. Acorns can take a long time to sprout so putting them in your compost isn’t a good idea or you’ll have lots of little oak trees to deal with. Just rake them up and put them in a pile somewhere or an old trashcan until they decompose.

Older trees produce less acorns.When the trunk reaches a diameter of 22 or about 60 years old the acorn production drops dramatically.  Following a year of abundant acorn production, the wildlife in the area will also increase in numbers. There is more to eat.

During some harsh drought seasons an oak can drop the acorns prematurely also losing it’s leaves. The next spring, it will most likely leaf back out earlier than normal. This abundance of leaf and sun will produce more acorns.  Spring conditions also affect acorn production. A warm April and cool May produce more acorns than a cool April and a warm May.

Many good and bad things follow the masting of oaks. More rodents and other animals means more pest. Some of those acorns will sprout and we all know that weeding is our favorite thing to do. So Dee—is was a complicated answer involving the sun, the condition of the tree, what kind of Spring did we have, and its cycle. Sometimes, you got all four working for you and that is what the picture above indicates. I have a White Oak in its cycle in perfect growing conditions. I better get a good rake.

Sources:

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/martin/twigs/acorns.php

http://www.jstor.org/pss/1933106

http://www.news-record.com/content/2007/10/14/article/acorns_driving_you_nutty

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Cinj says:

    I hope those hard hats work out for you, with that many acorns I’d imagine it wouldn’t be too pleasant to be hit by them. Thanks for all of the information, you really know a lot about plants. Since my oak tree has only dropped three acorns I’d have to say that there aren’t many up there. It’s hard to see though with all those branches so high up in the air like that.

    ** That is too funny! You need a telescope to take a look. The more I learn about plants, the more I realize what I don’t know;)

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  2. Squirrels have very small brains and lots of instinct. Personally, although they’re cute, I dislike the little rats with tails.

    Thank you for your wonderfully informative answer, Anna. I had no idea acorn production was so complicated. In my shade gardens, I pull up lots of baby oak trees every spring. Oh, and baby elms and redbuds. Sheesh.~~Dee

    ** You are welcome and thanks for the idea! I’m going to see an Oak this week at Airlie Gardens that was just an acorn in the mid 1500’s. You probably saw that already on plurk. I’m so thrilled about being here. What a beautiful place Wilmington, NC is. I’ll show you soon. Maybe even tonight! I know you can’t wait.

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  3. Bumper crops of acorns also means lots more crazy squirrel activity. They go goofy trying to get all the extra acorns & often find themselves dodging traffic. I miss the Burr Oaks that surrounded the house I grew up in, but I don’t miss the pain of walking around barefoot under them in the fall. Acorns hurt!

    ** Yes, they do hurt! I’m picturing the squirrels with cheeks full of acorns. Oblivious to what’s going on around them. I once sat on my front porch and watched a squirrel try to cross the road. He darted and dodged, caused a few vehicles to slam on brakes, and lost some of his acorns in the process. He never did cross. I think he got confused on which way he was going. It was probably a male squirrel who didn’t want to ask for directions!!

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