"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Unusual White Oak Litter
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Scifres

Although we are only on the threshold of falling leaves (the big shed of deciduous trees and bushes), I have observed a strange condition with a massive white oak tree and I am curious about what is causing it, if it occurring with others of the species, and why I have never seen it before.
Broken down to the simplest elements, this massive white oak has produced an equally large crop of beautiful acorns this summer, and squirrels are making the most of it--feeding there and spending the rest of the day burying acorns for winter.

Incidentally, this probably means there is a tremendous crop of white oak acorns throughout most of the state and that many species of game (especially squirrels) will serve up a bumper crop next year. Other species that will profit are deer, turkey, raccoons and many of the acorn eating birds.

The strange feature is this. Under the tree the earth is littered with acorn caps and outer shells, as it should be. But here the earth also is littered with enough leaf bearing twigs (up to a quarter of an inch in diameter) to give the earth the appearance of being covered by falling leaves. And the leaves are still very green.

Ends of the twigs generally do not appear as clean breaks, indicating they could be chewed. There are no acorns attached to the twigs.

I would like to know if this is occurring with white oak trees in other parts of the state--even other states--and how the white oak crop is doing elsewhere. Ordinarily, I have found in the past, squirrels will leave lots of acorn caps and shells beneath a tree, but very few small limbs with leaves attached.

My findings are based on the central part of the state where the summer drought was most severe.

Incidentally, this could translate into a bumper crop of white oak seedlings in the next year or so due to the sprouting of acorns buried by squirrels, but not retrieved for food. Ordinarily, acorns and nuts sprout every year, but natureís safeguard, in case of disaster, causes such things to delay a year or two.

Incidentally, fox and gray squirrels do not cache food for winter in secretive places. They bury them (shallow) in the forestís humus--one nut or acorn per spot. Red squirrels cache. 

It is a wonderful world that we inhabit, isnít it!

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

sprout.jpg (52169 bytes)
Blown up to make the picture more clear, the white oak acorn sprout resembles a hickory nut sprout but it is not. I made this picture several years ago (from same tree) to illustrate length of the taproot (long root) compared to the seedling (short growth above ground). Note how the shell of the acorn splits to accommodate growth.


When are they coming? My rule of thumbs on the appearance of shaggymane mushrooms is simple:  Watch for the first cold rain of October . . . then skin the eyes along roadside grassy plots that are in their fourth or fifth year . . . also in mulch mounds that are being placed around the base of decorative trees along roads where grass borderlines are well kept.

A nice feature of shag hunting is that you can become a motorized mushroom pirate. If you harvest on private lands, however, seek permission. The owner may want them.

As for cooking shags, I do it with the same recipes I use for frying morels (see web page). Donít over fry Ďem, but get Ďem nicely browned on both sides and use plenty of olive oil.

Donít eat the stems. They are tough. And remove the rounded, darker part of the stem where it attaches at the top of the cap. Also remove any part of the capís lower periphery that has turned black and gooey. Cook and eat only the white part of the cap. The scales are ok.


Chicory is still showing us its pretty powder blue blossom along back roads to tell us why it should be the stateís wildflower.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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