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
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
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
on thumbnail image for enlarged view.
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.
HOW ABOUT SHAGS?
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
Chicory is still showing us its pretty powder
blue blossom along back roads to tell us why it should be the stateís wildflower.