Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Quinnipiac Oak

While hiking the Quinnipiac Trail in Hamden I picked up some White Oak acorns that were already sprouting. These can be hard to find since wildlife snap them up right away, but there were dozens. Some are outside for the winter, but one I let grow in the window sill:
Oaks in the Red Oak family will not sprout in the fall, but oaks in the White Oak family will sprout immediately. For that reason, and because they are much sweeter than Red Oaks, squirrels will either eat the acorn immediately, or nip off the sprouting end before burying it. How do they know to do this?

White Oaks were once the dominant tree in Connecticut, comprising maybe 25% of all trees. Now they are much less common (Red Maple is now the most common tree, and Red Oaks are now much more common than White Oaks). Oaks in general are declining in Connecticut, for various reasons that are not well understood. In Fairfield County, one factor is the deer population, which favors oak seedlings and acorns, especially those of the White Oak.

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