So you are driving along one cool clear October morning listening to the radio when “Thwack!” The sound of an acorn hitting the roof causes reflexive ducking and a momentary jump in your heart rate. I guess there’s a reason they call it fall. But Acorns do much more than damage the occasional car; they serve as a food source for many species ad shape the wildlife communities they are found in.
Acorns are the “fruit” and seed of Oak trees. There are over 400 species of Oak trees in on Earth, about 60 of which occur in the US. A mature Oak tree can produce over 1,000 acorns a season. These acorns serve as an important food source wildlife. Squirrels often help in the propagation of Oak trees by moving the nuts around and storing them. They will sometimes remove part of the acorn to prevent germination. Other Acorns are prevented from germinating by insect larvae that feed and grow off of the nut meat. Deer are also big acorn fans, as crushed acorns are often sold as a deer food and attractant. Even animals that are normally thought of as meat eaters, such as Red Foxes enjoy crushed acorns.
Acorns are the seeds of Oak trees, and as such, can be planted and grown. However, not all acorns will grow into mighty oaks. If you are looking to grow some oak trees in your yard from acorns, a simple float test can be performed to pick out the most viable acorns. To perform the test, place all of your collected acorns (without caps) in a bucket of water. Some of the acorns will sink to the bottom, while others will float. The “sinkers” are the best for planting, whereas the floaters often contain acorns that have been insect infested, underdeveloped or aborted.
Acorns are safe to eat with a little preparation, and were used by Native Americans as a food source. Check out GrandPappy’s acorn recipes for Cooking and preparation methods. Enjoy!