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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - November 03, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Seeds and Seeding, Trees
Title: Why all the acorns from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What's the explanation for the huge crop of acorns falling from my live oak trees this fall. Do you recommend I dump them in my composter or just throw them in the flower beds? Thanking you in advance for your response,

ANSWER:

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer, we excerpted this information:

"Oak trees can start producing acorns when they are 20 years old, but sometimes can go all the way to 50 years for the first production. By the time the tree is 70 to 80 years old it will produce thousands of acorns.

The oak trees produce acorns once a year during the fall. Acorn production varies year to year and normally alternates. Not even the healthiest and largest oak can accumulate enough food and energy to produce strong crops two years in succession. Real strong acorn productions might happen every four to ten years. In addition, a late spring frost can blight the flowers which prevents acorn development. Droughts and insect ravages can decimate crops.

Acorn production will increase year after year; following a similar pattern as the size of the tree's canopy. Production starts very slowly at around the 25th year, the number of acorns produced then accelerates, and when the tree reaches about 100 years of age, it starts slowing down until it reaches a yearly production of about 2,200 acorns per year."

You may be experiencing the every 4 years or every 10 years cycles of acorn-bearing for your oak. As for composting or putting into flower beds, no and no. When your probably very happy squirrels have gathered all they want, we suggest you dispose of the acorns. What you don't want is volunteer oaks coming up in your compost (which probably won't get hot enough to kill the seeds/acorns) and your flower beds.

 

 

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