Sunday, November 13, 2011

Score! New Acorns for Me

Last year I wrote about how I am crazy about native tree nuts, acorns in particular.  Well, fall is the perfect time to go crazy.  In my previous blog entry I showed pictures of some of the acorns I had gathered in my area.  This year I was able to add to my “collection” in a significant way.  By the way, I don’t keep my collection in seed form – I plant them around the property so that I can “grow” my collection in every sense of the word!

Quercus prinus, Chestnut oak

The first addition to my collection is Quercus prinus (synonym Quercus montana) which is known as Chestnut oak.  One of the areas where we rescue plants has many Chestnut oaks.  I happened to be there when the crop hit the forest floor this year so I gathered a bunch.  As a member of the white oak group, these acorns sprout quickly and many of them had already sprouted when I collected them.  The plump, shiny acorns are 2-3 times bigger than the more common Quercus alba (White oak).

The second addition qualifies as one of my “significant” findings because I have wanted it for so long.  There is a Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) across the street from me, and I have checked the area around it every year for fallen acorns.  This year it finally produced some!  Based on the leaf shape and bright color, I have always considered it to be a Scarlet oak rather than a Northern red oak (Quercus rubra).  The acorns I gathered this year confirmed that my identification was correct – there are distinctive concentric rings around the base.

Scarlet oak across the street

Quercus coccinea acorns

The third addition is also a Scarlet oak.  This one is outside of my neighborhood but along my usual walking route.  The tree itself is too tall to see the leaves on the tree, but I have seen the leaves on the ground and the shape of them is quite atypical (in my opinion) for a Scarlet oak.  In fact the first time that I saw them, I thought it was Mapleleaf oak (Quercus acerifolia), but that species is not naturally found around here.  I know that oaks can hybridize in the wild and suspect this individual has both red and scarlet oak ancestors.  This year I finally found the acorns on the ground, and they are Scarlet oak acorns.

Fancy Scarlet oak leaves!

I also got some Georgia oak (Quercus georgiana) acorns; I didn't collect them myself - someone brought them to a meeting.  I have a few small Georgia oaks in my yard (leftovers from an Arbor Day project at the school), but it will be nice to grow a few more from seed.  The acorns are small and remind me of Southern red oak - they have an orange-ish top and faint stripes as well but a bit more gloss.  The picture below includes a leaf from one of my oaks.

Georgia oak, Quercus georgiana

I have water oak in my yard (Quercus nigra) but have never seen any acorns associated with my population.  I did find some acorns while working on a restoration site in Smyrna for GNPS.  The acorns are remarkably similar to both Georgia oak and Southern red oak in size, shape, and even right down to the faint stripes.  I don't know if this is typical, but I also noticed a band of orange/tan around the top of the acorn.

Water oak, Quercus nigra

So those are my acquisitions this year.  I’d also like to publish an update to my notes in the previous blog entry for two species.  The first is Southern red oak, Quercus falcata.  As the acorns in my yard pile up on the ground, many of them half-eaten by the local squirrels, I am reminded of the distinctive color of the nut meat - a bright orange.  Sometimes the color even affects the top of the acorn (visible after it separates from the cap).  Also, the outside of the acorn is often distinctively striped.  Here are some new pictures from acorns gathered this year.

Southern red oak, Quercus falcata

Here are some pictures of Northern red oak, Quercus rubra. These acorns are considerably larger than the ones I photographed last year and I think represent the species a little better than my previous picture. In addition, I like to include some leaves with my pictures going forward.

Northern red oak, Quercus rubra.


  1. This is such a great post for oak lovers. We have been plotting which oak species to add to our (small) landscape--now I have to decide which acorns I like best! (kidding...) The concentric circles are terrific!

  2. Congratulations on your finds! Great job and great post.

    I collected and planted a few (over a dozen, really) acorns last year, so I can relate. However, your knowledge of the many species of oak put mine to shame. :)

  3. I was very pleased to see the photo of the scarlet oak acorns with the concentric rings. I found some of this type of acorn at Unicoi State Park this September, but could not remember what type of oak they came from. It has been a fantastic year for acorns and nuts at our place.