I love trees, and I love oaks best of all. I'm not sure why I feel such an affinity for them, but I think it's mainly because they get so big, and that it takes so long for them to grow to their full maturity. An old oak represents a century or two of time's passing. It stands steady and unmoved while the tides of history ebb and flow around its roots. I never gave much thought, though, to the seedlings.
Back in the fall, while roaming around in the woods, I remarked to the hubby that we had all these oak trees and yet there wasn't a single acorn in sight. It seemed weird. Even a little creepy.
Then I read an article somewhere about how deer eat so many acorns that they are changing the balance of the forests from predominantly oak to maple. There are areas where conservationists are fencing off areas so that the nuts have a chance to sprout and mature, to try to preserve the species. With so many deer around here, I figured that solved the mystery of the missing acorns.
Not so. It seems there is a worrisome absence of acorns in general this year: Acorn Shortage Drives Scientists Nutty. Aside from the lack of new oak trees, this means trouble for deer, squirrels, turkeys, and other wildlife that depend on acorns to survive the winter.
Nobody knows yet if this is just an unusually light year following an unusually heavy one, or whether it signals a more deeply rooted environmental problem.
At the old house, there used to be dozens of ancient oaks around us, and the ground was littered with acorns in the fall. In spring, we'd pull up loads of oak seedlings as weeds in the flower beds and lawn. I wish now that I had potted some of them up to transplant into the woods.
I know it's late in the year to gather and plant acorns, but if you're lucky enough to have seedlings next spring, please treat them kindly. They may be among the last, precious few.
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