It is that time of year again: time to assess this year’s food production. In open areas, we can examine the moist-soil plants and get an idea of the number of seeds that have been produced over the summer. In the timber, we can scan the tree tops and get an idea of the number of acorns that have developed in the canopy.
Over the last few years, our acorn crop has continued to improve. Because trees are long-lived species, their nut production is cyclical and goes up and down over time.
Last year we had a great acorn crop, so our expectation for this year was going to be a little lower. Surprisingly, we’ve had another good mast year for the red oak species (pin, willow and cherrybark). Take a look at the graphic to see the density of acorns among oak species.
This year there was a lot of variability within the red oaks from tree to tree. One tree could have nothing, while the one right next to it looked great. This also applied to density of acorns on an individual tree. A portion of the crown may have looked good, but the rest of the tree was bare.
Despite the variation within and among trees, the pin oak production overall was slightly better than last year’s survey. Willow oak was down slightly from last year, and cherrybark was the same. Overcup was a little higher than the average, but not by much.
The mast production from these trees is important for the wildlife species that will use it as a food source and as the next generation of seedlings that may one day take over the canopy. This information is another nugget, or shall I say "nutlet," of information that helps us keep track and manage these valuable wetland communities.