7th June 2014

Acorns were once a key human food-source for many cultures, including our own, before cultivation of wheat and other grains supplanted them. They were collected and ground to produce flour for bread, and are still sold as a basis to some alternative coffees. Large and easy to cache, they provide an important food for many creatures, being high in proteins, carbohydrates, fats, some minerals and the vitamin ‘niacin’. Their bitter tannins make them problematic for cattle and horses, but pigs are still turned out to feed on them in parts of Europe, including the New Forest. Small mammals, Mice, Squirrels, Bears and Deer all feed on Acorns, as do Jays, Pigeons and even some Ducks! The larvae of some Wasps and Moths feed on them too. Crops vary each year and an Oak Tree doesn’t

Male catkins of Oak, earlier in the spring.

Male catkins of Oak, earlier in the spring.

Female Oak 'flowers' forming earlier in spring.

Female Oak ‘flowers’ forming earlier in spring.

Acorn beginning to form now.

Acorn beginning to form now.

produce acorns until it is at least 40 years old, peak production being between 80-120 years of age. Oaks rely on caching by Jays and Squirrels for much of their seed dispersal- forgotten caches  result in new saplings growing up far enough from the mature trees, with enough light and nutrition to grow strongly. The male catkins, seen earlier in the spring pollinate the female ‘flowers’ and now the Acorns are developing, as the photo shows. Conditions: Heavy rain-showers and low cloud until sunny intervals occurring late in the afternoon. Temperature: Max 18- Min 12 C

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