The mystery of the acorns

The mystery of the acorns December 1, 2008

Do you have any oak trees in your yard? Go out and look on the ground. (We’ll wait.)

Did you see any acorns? “The Washington Post” reports that there aren’t any. Not in the D.C. area, but also not in Pennsylvania or New England. (They don’t have much data from other regions, which is why I am asking you.)

This seems to be true of all varieties of oaks (red, white, etc.). And climate, weather, disease, parasites and other possible suspects don’t seem to explain it. See this.

The article said that when oaks feel threatened, so to speak–as in last year’s drought–they put out a superabundance of acorns so as to keep the species going. Maybe they are all going through a season of celibacy. But why? And how?

The oaks are in no danger, according to the experts, but it is making the squirrels very hungry, which, in turn, is making them act, well, squirrellier.

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  • WebMonk

    No oak trees in my yard, but the Pville post office has a big oak tree that had a ton of nuts under it earlier in the year. My son collected some just for giggles on a couple of our trips to get mail. There might still be one or two stuck in my seats! 🙂

  • We have a massive old oak in our yard here in Iowa, and I raked up at least two full lawn bags of acorns this year… and that doesn’t even begin to account for all that the squirrels ate before I got out to clean them up.

  • There are a number of oak trees along one of the streets on which my apartment sits. They’re mostly gone now, but about a month ago, the entire block looked like it was covered in peanut butter from all the acorns being crushed under tires.

  • Doug

    Living in the mountains of NC we have 12 oaks just on our property alone. Since we are still in an extreme drought our oaks dropped tons of acorns this year. There were so many falling that it literally looked like it was raining outside. That is also true for the walnut trees, peach trees, etc. Many locals can’t recall a time when the trees have produced to so much. They are predicting a bad winter because of it.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I can’t figure out how all the acorns have ended up in my pool, while the oak leaves have ended up in the yard. From neighbors’ oaks, I might add.
    Lots, by the way, of all of the above.

  • Ryan

    Central Illinois, acorns – check! (mostly gathered by Squirrels now)

  • Plenty of acorns here near Green Bay! We have several big oak trees around our yard, and we get a bunch of acorns on the ground every year. Two years ago was what they call a mast year, when they fell like rain. Even the normal years provide plenty to sustain a large squirrel and chipmunk population.

    Does anyone have an efficient way of cleaning them up? It takes forever to catch them with a rake, especially after they’ve been walked on and pressed halfway into the ground.

  • FullTime

    We are almost as summer-drought likely as California down here, but this summer was rather moist (meaning average rainfall) and we have plenty of acorns.

  • West Tennessee: lots and lots of acorns in my yard and around the town.

  • WebMonk

    I suspect this story was more an example of positive reinforcement bias than an actual dearth of acorns.

    He sees an area that, for whatever reason, doesn’t have any acorns. This strikes him as odd, but he’s never done a serious inquiry into it. He mentions his concerns, and lots of people start looking. The areas that are missing nuts for whatever reasons (overabundance of squirrels? lots of water available? too late/too early in season) report back to him, reinforcing his impression that there aren’t any acorns falling this year.

    Obviously, just from the anecdotal evidence here, acorns are falling, but he’s not seeing them wherever he or others are searching.

  • Chilibean

    The acorns (squirlees) are plentiful in Minnesota too.

  • On a trip to Sacramento we picked up some of the largest acorns I have ever seen.
    I think the article should have a subtitle:
    “The sky isn’t falling?”

  • Matt C.

    We have huge oak trees all over the neighborhood (northeast Indiana). No acorns. This is our first autumn in a house with oaks, so I wasn’t sure when acorns normally fall. This spring, I raked up the piles that were left by the previous owner, but so far, nothing from this season.

  • James

    LOL. That was so funny. Perhaps the Oaks decided to boycott until the earth stop Global Warming. Then again, perhaps the acorns were stolen by the honeybees.

  • LAJ

    LOL, James! Good one! I happen to love acorns even remembering my brother throwing them at me years ago. Our acorns fall into our woods so no raking!

  • Kathy

    A quick skim of the internet indicates white oak acorns mature in about one year and red oak acorns mature in two years. Also, I read that it is common for a lean year to follow a heavy year of acorn production. So, it sounds like it is just business as usual.

  • Anne

    I always thought acorns fell every other year.