In a Nutshell: Oak Tree and Acorn Facts

Learn about oak tree and acorn facts, including the lifecycle of acorns, how acorns feed wildlife, nutrients in acorns and a list of oak tree varieties.

| October/November 2003

Learn about oak tree and acorn facts and how this tree nut provides food for a wide variety of wildlife.

Magnificent oak trees and their acorns sustain countless wild creatures.

BLAM! BONK-BLAM! BLAM! For days on end at our house, this is early autumn's tune — a slow, staccato solo for pickup-truck percussion in A (for annoying) minor. No matter where I move my truck in our tree-covered driveway it sits beneath an oak, and acorns come raining down on it like oversized hailstones on a tin roof.

As startling as each resounding impact is to me, it must be a truly jarring experience for the little weevil larva curled inside the meat-filled shell. By summer's end many acorns carry the larvae, one to a nut, deposited as eggs in tiny pinholes drilled by feeding adult weevils. The jolt of an acorn's fall to the ground signals to the larva that the time has come to bore its way out of the shell. Once hatched, the larva burrows as much as a foot deep into the soil, where it remains for up to five years before pupating and emerging as a full-grown acorn-sucking beetle. The slam against unforgiving truck metal has to be a whole different kind of wake-up call.

Equally as eye-opening to biologists and ecologists, though, is the reverberating environmental impact of acorns — the countless billions that land with a gentle thud, and a collective bang, on soil and leaf litter from coast to coast. Scientists are only beginning to unravel the extraordinarily complex interplay between plants, wildlife and acorns in woodland ecosystems.

Oak Tree and Acorn Facts

Like other nuts, an acorn is a seed, an embryonic tree-to-be wrapped in a hard shell. But only the lower end of an acorn's innards is occupied by a rudimentary root and stem; the rest is nutritive tissue loaded with protein, carbohydrates and fat. Its purpose is to sustain a sprouting seedling until the infant grows green leaves and can stock its own larder via photosynthesis. But far more often than not, a forest creature gobbles the nut and its stored nutrients first.

10/7/2017 3:04:08 PM

So many "dry fruit" trees here in Northern Virginia. Near me there are Beech, and Pecans, and Hazelnuts, and lots of Black Walnut trees, of course Oak of many types. I'd like like to begin "safely" foraging. How can I know which are safe to eat and how to avoid ingesting any on board pests which might cause health issues. Thanks

10/3/2017 3:47:52 PM

abotanist An acorn, botanically, is a dry fruit containing a single seed. The dry fruits of many plants are mistaken for seeds. Check out sunflowers and strawberries for fun and amaze/annoy your friends.

10/3/2017 3:47:50 PM

Actually, the acorn is, botanically, not a seed but rather a dry fruit containing a single seed. Many dry fruit types are mistakenly called seeds, because they look and act like seeds. Check out the strawberry "seeds." (Take it from a botanist.)

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