“Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it.” - Hope Jahren
Every 2-5 years, oaks have a bumper crop. This is known as a mast year and is followed by several years of smaller crops.
Over a lifetime, white oaks produce 3 million acorns.
Most acorns contain one seed, but some contain two.
Blue jays can carry up to 5 acorns at a time, one in their mouth, one in the tip of their bill and two or three in a specialized pouch in their throat. They cache 3,000-5,000 acorns per season. There’s a good chance they won’t remember where they left them all, so they are key players in planting trees up to a mile from the parent tree.
Acorns are high in tannins and some animals may wait until they’ve been well soaked by ground water to leach out the tannins before eating them.
Bur oaks grow farther north than any other oak. They tolerate the cold, resist drought, and their thick bark can withstand fire. Look for them in southern Manitoba and Ontario.
The Garry oak, also known as the Oregon white oak, is the only oak native to British Columbia. Once they’re 30 years old, they start producing acorns, which are an important source of food for Columbian black-tailed deer, band-tailed pigeons, Stellar's jays, and other species.
Acorns come in all shapes and sizes. Some develop as a group of 2 to 3 acorns while others grow independently. Some, such as the bur oak, have a large cap covering one to two thirds of the acorn. Others, such as the Garry oak, have a much smaller cap, and it lacks the bristly fringe around the cap of a bur oak. The acorns turn brown as they mature and will, in most cases, separate from the cap.
Acorns were used as a coffee substitute during the American Civil War and by Germans during World War II. Koreans make a jelly as well as noodles from acorn starch. Many North American First Nations made flour and porridge from acorns.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/apmckinlay/53225629122
EcoFriendly West informs and encourages initiatives that support Western Canada’s natural environment through its online publication and the Nature Companion website/app. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Mastodon, or subscribe by email.