In the autumn of last year some time was spent gathering the acorns that had dropped from the magnificent oak trees at Lochore Meadows. These trees surround the area around the site of Lochore House, built in the 17th C. However these oaks are even older than that, approximately 600 years and probably grew as part of a woodland.
There are two species native to the British Isles, Pedunculate (English Oak), Quercus robus, which is the one you’ll find at Lochore and Sessile, Quercus petraea. These are part of a large genus of 500 species. Found in the northern hemisphere the species range prefer the warmer temperature of Mexico, 160 species and China, approx. 100 species.
The best practice for gathering acorns is to get them from the branch or as soon as they have fallen. You want them to be a brown/yellow colour, with maybe a hint of green still, have no cracks or sign of insect/fungal infection and they should easily or without damage remove from the cup. After gathering over a hundred acorns, I tested them in a pot of water. I discarded any acorns that floated or felt too soft, these may be rotten or infected and we want a good chance of germination success.
The acorns were planted in pots, not to deeply, with a mix of peat-free compost and soil from the woods and left in cool and dry place, to maintain the natural cycle of the frosty effects of winter. I would occasional water them and check for any damage by mice. After the last frost I put all the pots outside, hoping that my acorns had germinated and in a few weeks I would start to see some sprouting above the surface. The pots were placed in a sheltered sunny place, protected from mice and other hunger foragers and were watered when needed.
A few weeks ago they started to sprout and the iconic lobed oak leaves developed. Of all the acorns I planted there was an 80% success rate. These seedlings and saplings will be left to grow in their pots in the tree nursey until tree planting season starts again in the autumn. Some will be planted in Lochore Meadows close to their forebears, passing on the same strong genetics that have seen them live until 600 years old. It will take these young saplings 40 years until they will develop acorns themselves.
Hopefully one day these tiny acorns will develop and grow into mighty oaks that we all cherish seeing in our landscape. The unique shape of their large dense crown, with heavy lateral branches give them that full round shape. They are a home to hundreds of other species, from fungi and insects to birds, supporting more wildlife than any other tree species they truly are an ecosystem of their own.