The end of summer is descending upon Rappahannock, presaged by almost imperceptible changes in the natural world around us – of which we, despite humankind’s most arrogant efforts, remain a part. The days are longer, the nights cooler. Plants are beginning to shade subtly toward the pastels of fall – which takes its name (I’ve always assumed and don’t want to be informed otherwise) from the falling of the leaves.
But before the leaves fall, the acorns do.
Every year, landowners from all over Virginia donate acorns and other seed to help the Department of Forestry continue producing quality seedlings for other Virginia landowners. Virginia-grown seed naturally produces trees that will grow well in our state.
The specific species wanted are: pin oak, white oak, northern red oak, willow oak, chestnut oak, black oak, hazelnut, Allegheny chinkapin and black walnut.
The best time for seed collection is during the months of September and October. The forestry people recommend that you stay away from trees in the forest where leaves, limbs and woodland “litter” make it very difficult to collect. Instead, locate open-grown trees that are heavily loaded with acorns or seeds in large open areas, such as adjacent to schools, churches or parking lots. Look for healthy trees; avoid trees that have bulges or insect infestation, or appear diseased or strangely deformed.
For detailed guidelines for collecting, visit dof.virginia.gov or call 540-363-7000.
Collecting acorns and planting seeds for trees that will take perhaps 100 years to mature “requires a vision for a future that goes beyond one’s mortal reach,” in the wonderful words of naturalist Bernd Heinrich.
“If we envision ourselves as participants in the same grand, complex web of interactions as the forest,” he continues, “then planting acorns is like planting parts of ourselves.”