Bittersweet is the glimpse of gold that peeks through the green foliage.  Bittersweet is the feathery seed head that rises above the grass.  Bittersweet is the rush of cool air that foretells a new season.   Bittersweet is the maturation of acorns that rain down upon the landscape, but sweet is the relationship they share with the Oak and squirrel.

Although somewhat bothersome and messy, acorns serve an important role for both flora and fauna, and their partnership is nothing short of amazing.

Acorns are essentially the seed of the mighty oak, and its design is pure genius. The top of the acorn contains tasty and much-needed lipids (i.e. fats) that animals need. The bottom of the acorn, where the seed or embryo resides, is full of tannins, which are bitter and unpalatable, giving the seed a better chance of survival.

Before a squirrel begins feasting, they will shake and spin the acorn to test its quality. They are listening for the sound of tiny insects, and if heard, they tend to devour the acorn immediately. Stashing an acorn full of insects is risky business as the insects could eat the acorn from the inside out. Acorns without insects are of higher quality and are thereby buried or cached. This process gives the acorn a better chance of survival. Further still, acorns of higher quality are generally buried further away from the parent Oak, while acorns of lesser quality, if not eaten right away, tend to be buried closer to the tree. This too helps increase the chances of the acorns’ germination as seeds buried directly under the parent tree would not get adequate light, water or nutrients to survive.

More Oaks means more acorns, and more acorns means more squirrels and so on and so forth. The mighty Oak needs the squirrel as much as the squirrel needs the Oak. Their relationship perfectly symbiotic – a model of partnership, respect and survival. If you have Oaks in your yard, and they’re producing acorns this year, contact Sweeney’s to schedule your Fall Clean Up, if you haven’t already. Eventually, their spoils will need to be removed, along with all the falling leaves and other seasonal debris.

Plant of the Week

Pearl Glam Beautyberry

Deciduous, upright shrub emerges with dark purple foliage in Spring, followed by white flowers that yield orchid-colored berries in mass in Summer through Fall.  Purple foliage persists until first frosts.  Prefers sun to partial sun, and moist, well-drained soil.  Grows 4-6′ tall and 4-6′ wide.

“The boughs of the Oak are roaring inside the acorn.”

-Charles Tomlinson

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney