NEWS, Va. — You may have fussed and fumed about raking
an avalanche of acorns from your oak trees last year.
This year, you get a break, depending on where you live.
the most part, the acorn crop in Virginia is very light
this year, according to the local gardeners and the
Virginia Department of Forestry.
year I have heard many comments about the lack of
acorns, especially compared to last year," says Les
Lawrence, a member of the Historic Rivers Chapter,
Virginia Master Naturalist, in the Williamsburg
area. Chapter members have collected acorns for
the Virginia forestry department for several years,
delivering bushels of requested species in the native
white and red oak families needed for reforestation
normally collect bushels, but this year we collected a
very limited number of acorns from our native
oaks. However, the imported Japanese sawtooth oaks
(Quercus acutissima) again yielded numerous
climate conditions — colder or wetter springs — can
impact acorn production, oaks naturally have irregular
cycles of boom — known as "mast years."
wherever they are, naturally produce acorns in cycles,
according to Virginia forester Will Shoup.
red oak family yields bumper acorns every other year,
white oaks every two to three years. Climate
conditions impact production, too; a good year with rain
and sun means a bumper crop while severe drought slows
everything down. Some believe this year’s late spring
freezes and high humidity during pollination adversely
affected acorn numbers.
all the oak species have come up short this year with
the exception of willow oak," Shoup said.
grow very slowly compared to other species of hardwood
and they can’t put out the acorns every year in large
numbers. They produce every year — just not
though it’s a non-native species, the imported
sawtooth oak is a good tree for a home landscape
environment, Shoup said, especially if you want acorns
for wildlife food. Sawtooth oak produces acorns in
seven to eight years as opposed to the 15 to 18 years it
takes for a native oak species, he said.
use sawtooth oak for a lot of my wildlife planting
projects," he said. "It’s not a very large
oak either, so it fits nicely in a landscape
prepare for acorn shortages, the forestry department
maintains seeds in storage and purchases seed from North
actually buy and sell a lot with North Carolina with
nursery stock," Shoup said.
for seed and seedlings, the material is almost
interchangeable between the two states, due to similar
climates. We are involved in a co-op with North
Carolina with our softwood research and nursery
acorn shortage also poses problems for wildlife that
rely on them as a winter food source.
are an important component in the diet of a wide variety
of wildlife species, including gray squirrels,
flying squirrels, mice and voles, rabbits, raccoons,
opossum, red and gray fox, whitetail deer, bear, turkey,
bobwhite quail, blue jays, crows and woodpeckers,"
said Stephen Living, a wildlife biologist with the
Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries.
waterfowl like wood ducks and mallards use this food
food shortages cause wildlife, including the long-range
gray squirrel, to roam more than they would during
plentiful years. Hungry squirrels will be pilfering
seeds and nuts from birdfeeders, so birders are best to
use caged feeders mounted on posts with
squirrel-deterrent baffles. Squirrels are also less
likely to bother feeders filled with safflower seed or
seed treated with a hot pepper coating.
deer will be more likely to browse yards, devouring
prized ornamental plant material. Homeowners need
to cage plants or use deterrents such as Liquid Fence
and Bobbex, which are non-toxic, spray-on products that
deer don’t like to taste or smell. Bobbex
contains a fish oil sticking agent that dries and lasts
through several heavy rains, according to the company;
Liquid Fence for deer and rabbits claims to be rain
Firs, maple, birch, hickory, cedar, redbud, beech,
ginkgo, holly, magnolia, pines, oak, sassafras,
sourwood, sweet gum.
aucuba, butterfly bush, boxwood, juniper, viburnum,
sweetshrub, hydrangea, mahonia, wax myrtle, lilac and
yarrow, anemone, ginger, aster, astilbe, tickseed,
coneflower, foxglove, many bulbs, lily-of-the-valley,
mums, bee balm, hellebores, peony, Russian sage and
more deer-resistant plants at www.almanac.com/content/deer-resistant-plants.
can be broken into two broad categories, said Stephen
Living: white oaks including white oak, swamp white oak,
post oak and chestnut oak; and red oaks including
southern red oak, black oak, and willow oak.
acorns in the white oak group are generally more
palatable and preferred by wildlife although they
germinate relatively soon after falling. In contrast,
red oak acorns are more bitter due higher levels of
tannin, which also makes them harder to digest; they
will, however, persist longer on the ground and provide
a food resource deeper into the cold weather months.
native red and white oaks are huge trees, so they
require space to grow and mature — pin oak 40-50 feet
tall and 60-80 feet tall, red oak 60-75 feet wide and
tall, white oak 50-90 feet wide and 60-100 feet
tall. Live oaks, an evergreen native to mid and
lower East Coast areas, spread 50-80 feet and go up
on the other hand, matures to a manageable 30-40 feet
wide and tall; it’s easy to transplant, tolerates
drought and produces acorns earlier in life.
fast growing and adaptable to poor soils, so a fairly
easy tree to grow," said Bill Kidd, vice president
of purchasing at McDonald Garden Center.
oaks of all kinds are important food producers for
wildlife, a variety of trees and shrubs in your yard is
most beneficial for wildlife, according to Doug Inkley,
senior wildlife biologist with the National Wildlife
means you always have something for wildlife — food,
shelter and nesting," he said.
how to turn your yard into a nature-friendly certified
wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife