I have a beautiful oak tree in my front yard that has recently become the neighborhood gathering spot for what seems to be all of the local squirrels. They are attempting to enjoy the abundance of acorns the oak tree has produced this year, many of which have already dropped despite still being green.
For the most part, I don’t mind the squirrels, though there is one that I am convinced doesn’t like me. Every time I venture outside close to the tree, he drops half-eaten acorns on me. I personally think he is throwing them at me, but that makes me feel a little crazy to admit that a squirrel would target me. I’ve given him no reason to be mad at me, but he doesn’t drop (or throw) them at anyone else in my family so what other conclusion am I supposed to make?
It got me to thinking though, it’s still August but I have an abundance of acorns on the ground and many, many more still in the tree. Why do I have so many acorns this year, especially since I had so few last year?
The first source I turned to was the Farmers Almanac. For years folklore has suggested that an abundance of acorns was a sign of an upcoming harsh winter with cooler than normal temperatures and above average snowfall. As with most folklore, this analysis has to be taken with a bit of skepticism. Some years the theory proves true, but just as many years go by where it does not.
The second source I turned to was a book I read late last year, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Mr. Wohlleben has spent his life as a forester in Germany and now manages his own environmentally friendly woodland there. In chapter 5 of his book, Peter discusses how the amount of seeds (acorns) is more of an indication of stressors on the tree from the previous season. Periods of drought or insect infestation in the previous season will cause the tree to produce more offspring (seeds) the following season as a defense mechanism to ensure the survival of their species.
Peter’s analysis does fit with what we have seen with the number of stressors over the past year; everything from drought to late-Spring freezes, to extreme heat. It only makes sense that acorns would be abundant this year.
So it looks like the squirrels and the deer will be eating well this fall. It’s also a pretty good indication that we will have some tree saplings to manage next spring, but that’s another story for another day.
I have to admit though; there is part of me that hopes the Farmers Almanac is right. A little snow this winter sounds good, especially on this warm August day!