View Full Version : Are acorns really abundant this year?

Brian Elfert
09-09-2013, 11:06 PM
I'm in Minneapolis, MN. Are acorns really abundant this year? I'm sitting in my house and I keep hearing acorns hit the roof every 20 to 30 seconds. I never remember hearing so many falling acorns.

My driveway is just covered in acorns. It seems like in other years the animals would make off with most of the acorns, but they are mostly just sitting there this year.

Kevin Bourque
09-10-2013, 10:31 AM
We had the same thing happen with our hickory trees last year. We were up to our butts in nuts.

Michael Weber
09-10-2013, 11:03 AM
I find that there are more "nuts" around in every season

Chris Damm
09-10-2013, 11:13 AM
Some years there are more acorns than others because acorns take between about 6 and 24 months to mature. Around here that is what some people say is a sign of a hard winter when the amount of acorns has nothing to do with the weather.

Bob Rufener
09-10-2013, 11:16 AM
I live in SE Wisconsin. Because of crazy weather last year with a late freeze, blistering hot summer and severe drought, my oaks didn't have an acorn on them. None this year either. Don't know why as other years there was an abundance of them. I'd frequently see deer out on the lawn in mid day eating acorns. I went to a meeting last night and when I got home about 9:00, I found 4 deer laying on my front lawn showing up in my headlights. I drove into the garage and only one got up. All 4 appeared to be this years fawns as they were all small. I think I know what ate the leaves off of the green beans and beets in our garden...

Dave Anderson NH
09-10-2013, 11:48 AM
We already have a heavy falling of acorns this year in southern NH. It's always an aggravation to rake them off the lawn so we don't slip or trip over them. We just took down a 70 foot red oak which had limbs hanging over the second floor roof. This means we won't have to listen to the acorns falling on the roof or the air conditioner any more.

John Shuk
09-11-2013, 9:27 AM
I have noticed that they are markedly larger this year than usual. I don't even usually notice the acorns on my white oaks but this year they are flush with them.
Maybe the 17 year cicadas are responsible.

Jason Roehl
09-11-2013, 9:58 AM
I've noticed a lot of fruit and nut bearing trees are producing plentiful amounts this year. I suspect it is due to the drought last year--they trees "know" they're in trouble, so they produce seed to reproduce. Several years ago, a tree-trimmer friend of mine stopped by and told me how to prune a crabapple tree in my front yard. I did what he suggested, and a couple months later it was loaded with tiny crabapples--which I had never seen on the tree, nor had my neighbor, who has lived here much longer than I. It was loaded again this year, without any pruning.

Kevin Bourque
09-11-2013, 12:13 PM
My apple tree had been producing a bumper crop for the last 3 years, but not this year. The apples on the tree now are small and wormy. Same with my neighbors who have almost no apples at all on their trees.

Larry Frank
09-11-2013, 7:25 PM
I have a lot of acorns this year but they seem to be small. The spring was good for the little fuzz like flowers that were on the tree and a lot of them became acorns. I have both pin oaks and red oaks. However, it has been very dry the last half of the summer and I think that is why mine are small.

A year ago in my area, we had a very warm spring with a late hard freeze and that prevented the flowers from becoming acorns. It is kind of like the apple crop a year ago when the late freeze killed 90% of the apple crop.

Brian Elfert
09-11-2013, 7:31 PM
It seems like folks have confirmed there are a lot of acorns this year. My co-worker said he picked up six big trash cans full of acorns this past weekend.

Myk Rian
09-12-2013, 11:11 AM
My apple tree had been producing a bumper crop for the last 3 years, but not this year. The apples on the tree now are small and wormy. Same with my neighbors who have almost no apples at all on their trees.
Same in this neighborhood.
Thousands of apples, but they're small, and not ripening. Next door neighbor had half the tree break off because of all the weight of the apples.

Joe Tilson
09-12-2013, 12:27 PM
We have had in years past Pecans fall like rain on a windy evening. We may have this happen again this year, because they are crowding the culls off the pods. The ground is littered with waste nuts. Squirrels are very happy, happy, happy.

Ryan Mooney
09-12-2013, 12:54 PM
I'd rather have the Pecans I think but no such luck here.

Acorns aren't that crazy this side of the mountains, a good crop but not ridiculous. The elm trees on the other hand went bonzai this spring and filled the gutters to overflowing. It was like an elm blizzard at our house.

Jim Rimmer
09-12-2013, 1:00 PM
We had a bumper crop of acorns in South Texas last year.

Bill Cunningham
09-12-2013, 10:04 PM
We don't have any oak trees handy, I would LOVE to have a couple of barrels of acorns, and keep spreading them around our deer stand and food plot.. Good acorns become good meat fairly shortly..:D

alex grams
09-13-2013, 1:42 PM
It is called a mast/masting year. We had one in Texas last year. Every so often (not rare, but not regularly) the environmental conditions add up and signal trees/plants that it is time to fruit heavy. Last year we had live oaks at our office that had to have acorns swept out from under them every other day because they were making the sidewalks dangerous from all of them.

Mel Fulks
09-13-2013, 1:51 PM
Acorns have a long history of being eaten by American Indians ,ancient Romans ,and others. Anyone here tried them? I see there is some info on line about preparation .

Christopher Collins
09-13-2013, 4:27 PM
I'm an ecologist, so I'll put my 2 cents in.

Oak trees, and lots of other trees, produce mast crops (much larger than average crops) of nuts every few years. This coordinated action often occurs over very large areas. It's thought that this helps the tree to overwhelm seed eating animals. They produce very few accorns for several years in a row, which essentially starves seed predators to very low population levels. Then the trees produce a bumper crop, and the animals cannot possibly eat all the seeds, so more seeds are likely to survive and sprout. It's called "Predator satiation". Some animals are thought to use the same sort of reproductive strategy, like 17 year cicadas. It's basically like "Hey squirrels, do you like acorns? well here's a billion acorns, good luck eating them all!". An alternative theory is that the trees are attempting to coordinate flower production so that they all get pollinated by each other (they are wind pollinated). Or it could be both reasons, or neither. It's still not fully understood.

This of course has ripple effects throughout the ecosystem. the next year there will be a spike in rodent and deer populations because of all the food, and the unusually large number of animals that will survive this winter that otherwise would have starved. The year after that there will be a spike in the number of Lyme disease cases, so we have that to look forward to in two years.

Scientists don't really know why mast crops occur. Many studies have tried to find some correlation with weather, but the connection between weather and mast is not very strong. some studies have shown that there is a period in spring, while the trees are producing flowers, that is a critical time. Warm, wet temperatures at this time may increase seed production, but it's not a completely reliable predictor. Sometimes you get what should be the right environmental conditions and no mast crop. There is some correlation with the el-nino cycle and other large scale climate patterns. Also, different species mast at different average intervals, and it seems each species requires a certain length of time to build up nutrients. If the trees aren't ready, it won't matter what the weather is like that year. Even though different species have different average intervals, that interval still varies, so he intervals between mast crops are irregular and apparently unpredictable (or at least we haven't managed to unravel exactly how all these different causes interact).

Another equally interesting question is how the trees seem to communicate, somehow, in order to coordinate this event over hundreds of square miles, between areas that may have had very different weather conditions during the year. One study in Canada showed coordinated masting in trees in an area over a 700 km wide! Another study showed coordination over a range of 2500 km. That's hundreds of millions of trees all picking the same year to produce their mast crop, with pretty much every single tree participating.

So, in conclusion, yes, it's a mast year, and no, scientists don't really know exactly why, but we have lots of un-confirmed hypotheses about why.

alex grams
09-14-2013, 12:11 AM
Chris said what I tried to say, but in a much more educated manner, hah.

I too think it is pretty amazing that millions of plants coordinate this behavior yet we have absolutely no idea of anything they use that signals and coordinates this behavior.

Last year in Texas it was an exceptionally hot summer, with an even more exceptionally hot one the year before, with the first hot summer also being a record dry summer, and last summer, while wetter, was still well below average. Certainly not what I would consider beneficial factors to encourage plant growth.

Matt Marsh
09-14-2013, 7:19 AM
Definitely a banner year here in the Bemidji area Brian. The street sweepers have been busy around the BSU campus. Everywhere you walk, it's crunchy!

Mel Fulks
09-14-2013, 1:03 PM
What's the evidence for "coordination" ? Why can't they be independently reacting to current environment ?

Christopher Collins
09-14-2013, 10:05 PM
They could be reacting to the environment, but these events often span such a large area that climate and weather vary quite a bit between locations. Of course we may be looking at the wrong environmental conditions.

There's no proof of communication, but it's not unusual for plants to communicate. There are other situations where plants are known to coordinate "behaviors" (if you can call it that) based on airborne chemical messengers called "semiochemicals". Some species of plants (cotton and corn both do this, for example) will release semiochemicals when they are attacked by insects or other herbivores. Nearby plants will respond by producing higher amounts of defensive toxins. Interestingly, some predatory insects are attracted by these chemicals, and they will attack the herbivorous insects, so the plants are actually calling in reinforcements to eat their pests. If coordination of masting is happening, chemical communication a possible mechanism, but it hasn't been proven, so that's just one possibility.

Andrew DiLorenzo
09-14-2013, 10:13 PM
Acorns are part of what is known as the mast crop, and their are people that track such things. My guess is that when acorns are superabundant, those that bait deer with corn during the year will not see so many deer when they go to hunt. I know a few years ago there was a very large mast crop up and down the east coast, and the animals that ate them got fat I presume.

Mel Fulks
09-14-2013, 10:21 PM
Christopher, thanks for the clarification .