Bumper crop of acorns falls from oaks

September 22, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle has 43 species of oak trees and that makes it the largest oak tree collection in the world. This fall the trees are producing more acorns than even the most intelligent squirrel could count. Arborists call it a mast year.

"A mast year is when the acorns, which is the fruit of the oak tree, produce in heavy, heavy numbers. This year I would guess we have a one hundred percent increase of what we had last year," said Kris Bachtell, v. p. collections Morton Arboretum.

No one's counting acorns; that's impossible. But the squirrels do seem to have an extra hop in their hop.

"It started out warm in spring and then kind of a rainy season and there was plenty of wind and oak trees are wind pollinated so it's been an abundant year for oaks," said Doris Taylor, plant specialist, Morton Arboretum.

From the tiny acorn grows the mighty oak tree. And this year the oak is mightier than ever as far as acorn production is concerned.

"It is squirrel thanksgiving. Our roads and lawns ... it's acorns all over," said Bachtell.

There hasn't been an acorn bumper crop like this for seven years.

"It's to beat the predators. They produce more food or more acorns than the predators can eat. So the ones that are left over start the trees for next year," said Bachtell. "Ah, well that's natural selection and evolution."

The mighty oak-- smart enough to survive for millions of years and probably many millions more.

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