DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – While raking your yard, you may have noticed a large amount of acorns mixed in with the fallen leaves. There’s a good reason since this is a massive year for oak trees.
Oak trees don’t produce acorns every year. In 2023, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) reports that a higher-than-average number of white and red oak trees are producing acorns. It is known as a mast year, where an abundance of acorns will fall. Scientists do not know exactly why they occur, but one of the main theories behind it is predator satiation.
“Where the trees overwhelm the seed predators, and that way, you know, they get their fair share. They get their fill, but there are some out there left to be, you know, left alone, essentially,” said Dr. Don Cipollini, professor of biology at Wright State University.
While it is unknown exactly why it happens, experts have been able to predict that mast years for oak trees are about every 2 to 5 years.
“On a year when trees are making a lot of acorns, they’re investing a lot of resources into that. And that makes the next year tougher for them to do that so they kind of have to recoup, essentially,” said Cipollini.
Oak trees take between 20 and 40 years to begin acorn production, and their relationship with wildlife like squirrels and blue jays is what allows for new trees to sprout.
“Acorns are also a valuable food source for a variety of wildlife, and part of their strategy, the oak strategy for dispersal, is that critters like them and they carry them off, especially squirrels and bury them and things like that to help, you know, make sure there’s more oak trees in the future,” said Brett Beatty, wildlife management supervisor for the ODNR Department of Wildlife.
If you want to find more information on how long it takes to grow each acorn, and the wildlife they feed, visit ODNR’s website.