Here in Ohio the temperatures are quickly falling and so are the acorns, lots of them! The kids and I have been having fun collecting them. We have buckets full! The girls have also been asking a lot of questions about them. I discovered that I didn’t have all the answers, so I did a little bit of homework. It turns out those tiny acorns, that in seasons past I have cursed as I raked them up or when one knocked me in the noggin, are quite amazing little nuggets of nature that also happen to teach us something about ourselves too.
In case you were unsure, acorns grow on oak trees. They sprout from stems on the tree and can grow alone or in clusters. They consist of a green or brown nut that contains one seed and is topped with a cap or “cupule” that makes them look like they are wearing little hats. Based on our research we discovered the oak trees on our property are Red Oaks.
The acorn is a vital part of the ecosystem. Not only do the seeds propagate new oak tree growth, they are also a major food source for birds, rodents, and larger mammals, such as deer and bears. What I find especially fascinating about acorns is that they must rely on methods other than wind to move them away from their parent oak tree due to their weight. In order to germinate successfully, the soil must give them access to water, sunlight, and nutrients. In addition, they must be planted at least 65 feet from the parent tree to have adequate room for growth. That’s pretty far! To accommodate this, oak trees have developed a mutual relationship with acorn eating animals. These animals harvest the seeds, move them away from the tree and bury them for storage, allowing some to germinate, while others are eaten. An acorn requires about eight months to germinate from seed to sapling.
Watch this beautiful time-lapse movie that shows an acorn transforming into an oak tree.
So, what to do with the dozens of acorns we’ve collected? Well, the girls wanted to paint them bright rainbow colors. I had some other ideas in mind. So, we did both! Just make sure you wash them first and then bake them at 325 degrees for at least 30 minutes to get rid of any bugs or moisture so they don’t get moldy. We created some seasonal decor by hot-gluing some acorns and some caps to picture frames we had around the house. It was a fun way to bring the outdoors in for fall.
Coincidentally, I have also been meaning to clear some brush out of an area near our driveway that is mostly full of tiny oak trees. After gaining such an appreciation for the miracle of an acorn growing into a tree, I felt bad cutting down these babies. But, I also now knew that they were too close to the larger oaks and didn’t have adequate room for growth. I don’t want this entire area to fill in with brush, so I spent an afternoon last weekend clearing some away.
To make up for the baby trees I killed, the kids and I decided we wanted to plant some of the acorns we had collected to watch them grow into trees. After doing some research, I learned that in order to grow a new red oak, acorns must be planted in the second season – the following spring. To do this, you are to put acorns in a Ziploc bag with damp peat mix or sawdust. Close the bag loosely and store in the refrigerator. Check the acorns throughout the winter and keep them just barely damp. Planting these acorns in late April of the following season apparently gives you the best success but can be planted later. We don’t really need any more trees on our property, nor do I have room in my fridge for acorns, so we decided to plant one acorn this year just for fun to see if anything would happen.
To me trees are symbolic of family. For Father’s Day this year instead of a new shirt or tie which would become worn with time we selected a beautiful Canadian Hemlock to be planted in our yard. As the children grow and as our love grows, so will both of these trees. We will admire them as the years go by and think about our strong family bond. The kids and I also made some handprint artwork for Father’s Day for my husband, his dad and my dad. The text reads “FAMILY – Like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”
As we watch the squirrels and chipmunks from our window busy at work collecting their nuts and storing them away for winter, the children and I have a new appreciation for the amazing acorn and for each of God’s gorgeous creations. Every plant and animal was placed here by him to play some important role. We all contribute something to this Earth in the short time we are here and we are all connected whether we realize it or not. The oak tree that grows the fruit, the acorn that feeds the animals, the squirrel that spreads the seed to grow new trees, more food, more oxygen and more seeds. As I gaze out at those beautiful oak trees on our little piece of the planet, today I can’t help but feel as though God is our oak tree, and we are all his acorns, his fruit, spreading his love in all different directions.