As the temperatures finally start to drop and the Old Dominion begins its transition into fall, foresters and staff at the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) are set to begin gathering and sorting this year’s acorn crop in preparation for growing the next generation of trees.
Every year, Virginians from all over the state collect and donate acorns and other seeds that VDOF staff plant at the Augusta Nursery, where more than a dozen hardwood tree species get their start. Successful seedlings are later sold to Virginia landowners, typically to reforest open lands.
Trees that begin from homegrown acorns, nuts and seeds are much more likely to thrive in Virginia’s climate.
“Each fall, Virginia is covered with acorns, and folks wonder what to do with them,” said Josh McLaughlin, assistant forestry manager at the Augusta Nursery. “Collecting acorns and donating them to VDOF is a huge help to us, presents a great activity for environmentalists of all ages and provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about Virginia trees. Our acorn crop varies from year to year, and you can help us ensure representation from all over the state.”
Collection guidelines remain primarily the same as last year, with some minor adjustments to the deadline and species list. Drop-offs are due by Oct. 14.
This year, VDOF’s collection priorities are Black Oak, Black Walnut, Chestnut Oak, Chinese Chestnut, Northern Red Oak, Pin Oak, Shumard Oak, Southern Red Oak, Swamp Chestnut Oak, Swamp White Oak, Water Oak, White Oak and Willow Oak.
“We are happy to report record-setting seedling production numbers at VDOF’s Augusta Nursery this year,” said State Forester Rob Farrell. “Thanks to additional funding provided by the General Assembly and collection efforts by everyone across the commonwealth last fall, we will soon have approximately 3.7 million conifer, and 2.7 million hardwood seedlings available for purchase. This represents an increase of 63 percent, or almost 2.5 million seedlings.”
For general information on the initiative, see the Website at https://www.vdof.virginia.gov. Some general guidelines:
• Safety first. Stay away from roadways.
• Do not collect on private property without permission.
• Collection from yards, sidewalks, driveways, etc., is recommended, to ensure collection of a single species. (Forest collection makes it difficult to determine the tree of origin and may lead to mixing of acorn species.)
• Do not collect damaged, cracked or dried out acorns/nuts.
• Avoid sticks, leaves, gravel and debris, but acorn caps are okay. (When the caps remove easily it means the acorns are ready for harvest.)
• Place in a breathable bag, such as paper (best), burlap or cloth. Do NOT use plastic bags.
• Use a separate bag for each species.
• Label the bag with the collection date and species if known (e.g.; willow oak). If you’re not sure, include a few leaves from the tree to aid nursery staff with identification.
• Don’t allow acorns to freeze, heat up or dry out.
• Place in a cool area until you’re ready to drop them off.