Have you noticed that there are a LOT more acorns than usual this fall? I know I have.
I contacted horticulturist David Rodriguez of the Bexar County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, and what he told me didn’t come as a surprise: Our yards are likely full of acorns because oak trees have experienced more than two years of continual drought, our hottest summer on record, and intense cold snaps.
- Yes, we are seeing more acorns than usual in San Antonio and the Hill Country this fall
- Oak trees produce more fruit (acorns) when they go into “survival” mode -- hoping to develop as many saplings as possible to ensure the next generation of oak trees
- This may indicate a higher oak pollen season in spring
- There is NO correlation between a lot of acorns and a “harsh” winter
- The abundance of acorns is a good reminder that fall is the season for planting landscape, and it’s important to remember to plant many different kinds of trees to increase biodiversity
TONS OF ACORNS
Acorns are the nut/fruit of oak trees, and we certainly have a TON of oaks around San Antonio and the Hill Country -- particularly live oaks. But our trees have been through the ringer in the past few years.
Who can forget the horrible winter storm of 2021? And remember the ice storm earlier this year? When trees snapped from the weight of the ice in northern San Antonio and the Hill Country.
If the cold weather wasn’t enough, San Antonio has experienced two of its hottest summers back-to-back. But the nail in the coffin for some of our trees? The prolonged, ongoing drought.
Short and simple: our trees are stressed. They’re going into “survival” mode. And one of the ways that they ensure species survival is by producing a lot of acorns.
While a lot of acorns in your yard may be a pain to remove, they are generally harmless. Acorns naturally degrade, are a delicious snack for squirrels, and acorns likely won’t cause major damage to your lawnmower. But, if you do mow over acorns, they often become dangerous projectiles -- so it is best to remove as many as possible before mowing.
NO, YOUR OAKS AREN’T NECESSARILY DYING
Just because our trees are going into “survival” mode doesn’t mean they’re dying.
Still, it is important to take care of our trees. According to Mark Bird, San Antonio’s City Arborist...
“It is critical for property owners who are tying to help their trees that they really start considering Year-Round tree care starting with a year round watering program and to focus on improving overall soil health for the benefit of tree and all landscape plants including grasses.
Winter is our driest time of the year. Because it is not hot and we forget to continue to water trees and landscape plant at least 1-2 times a month.”Mark Bird, San Antonio's City Arborist
If you’re worried about the fate of a certain tree, watch for common symptoms of a dying oak. If your tree drops its leaves for the winter, but the leaves don’t return in the spring, it may be dead. Or, if your tree’s leaves turn brown but don’t drop at all, that could be a sign that your tree is dying, too.
It’s best to wait until spring to know for sure.
MORE OAK POLLEN IN THE SPRING?
A high volume of acorns could be an indication of a higher oak pollen season in the spring. Oak pollen peaks in late March and early April, when dangly catkins of pollen develop with new leaf growth.
But, according to Rodriguez, an intense oak pollen season will really be determined by how much rain we receive in the fall and winter. If we continue to get good rains, oak pollen will likely be higher in the spring. We’ll keep you posted!
A ‘HARSH’ WINTER? Not so fast...
It’s a common old wives’ tale that a lot of acorns in the fall means a “harsh” winter. This, however, isn’t true. There is no correlation between many acorns and a very cold winter.
TREE DIVERSITY IS IMPORTANT
Oak trees drop their acorns in the fall because it is an ideal time for their seeds to be planted. This is nature’s reminder to us that fall is landscaping season.
You may be interested in replacing your lost trees. However, instead of replanting live oaks, Rodriguez suggests diversifying Bexar County’s tree population by planting different kinds of trees. This especially includes replanting red oaks, which have been hit hard by extreme temperatures and prolonged drought.
Texas A&M Forest Service has a tree selector tool to help you pick which trees would be best based on your county.
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