Acorns aplenty — a good omen?

Jane Shelby Richardson/Duke University

My colleague Mike Fitzgerald mentioned the other day that his oak tree has been dropping acorns like crazy.

Not only is the harvest early, he said, but it’s especially abundant.

I’d just read a piece by Tom Stienstra┬ásuggesting that ancient American Indians believed an early acorn release meant a wet winter ahead.

This year, apparently acorns were falling as early as mid-August on the slopes of Mt. Diablo, Stienstra wrote. The trend holds true in other parts of the state, too — including Valley oaks in the Stockton area, according to local biologist Steve Stocking.

But Stocking seems to tie this phenomenon not so much to the coming winter, but instead to the very dry ones we’ve recently experienced.

“A logical hypothesis is that somehow the oaks are ‘thinking ahead’ and producing more young to replace those trees lost during the drought,” Stocking wrote in an email.

“Each species has its own DNA, and its own set of responses to the environment,” he wrote. “I believe that at this point we could only say that the big crop of valley oak acorns is part of their response to the environment and that we should not generalize to other areas and other species.”

So who knows? We can only hope the Indians were right.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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