A storm of acorns

Arboretum staff enjoyed a meeting under the trees this week, narrowly avoiding death by falling acorns. Some of the Arboretum’s oaks are enjoying a bumper crop of acorns this year, in stark contrast to last year’s nearly non-existent yield.

While acorn production does alternate annually, late spring frost, insect damage, lack of nutrients, and drought conditions can also affect acorn production. Oaks generally begin producing acorns by twenty years of age, but some trees don’t produce acorns until fifty years. Just as the canopy of a tree grows over time, so does its production of acorns. By one hundred years of age, acorn production averages out at around 2,200 acorns per tree.

Acorns provide vital nutrients for a variety of birds and mammals, including jays, pigeons, ducks, squirrels, mice, and deer. A correlation between high acorn yields and a rise in Lyme disease has been traced to the acorn-fueled population boom of white-footed mice (pictured), the key host for ticks that carry the disease.

To experience the Arboretum’s bumper crop of acorns, acorn enthusiasts have but to exit the Visitor’s Center back doors and cross over to the picnic table, which is surrounded by a blanket of the nuts. For those inclined to linger, hard hats are advised.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

       

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