Oak regeneration – promoting new growth of our oak ecosystem – is a very important component of Project Quercus(R). Rather than relying on natural regeneration when acorns fall each autumn, TLC helps increase the number of trees that grow from each year’s acorns through the Acorn Roundup. People from across McHenry County gather these future oaks each fall and bring them to TLC’s office in Woodstock.
The acorns are stored for the winter, then grown into oaks that are used for future Project Quercus plantings as well as the annual oak sale that raises funds for the Third Generation Oak Fund.
TLC’s Acorn Roundup is a great way to get your kids, friends, neighbors or students involved in a worthwhile project!
If you don’t have oaks on your property, there are many other places you can go to collect. Look for areas that have been maintained like parks, churches, schools, golf courses, neighbors, etc. It’s always good to have permission, and most people will want to help if you explain the program.
Begin checking for ripe acorns in late August, when they start dropping to the ground. Acorns are ready when the caps are easily removed without damage to the nut. They may be picked directly from the tree when ripe. Select the largest acorns from the healthiest looking oak trees, and collect only those without signs of cracks, holes, and those that feel hollow.
Checking for weevils:
One of the biggest problems with acorn collection is the acorn weevil. The adult weevil will lay eggs in the developing acorns, and then the grubs eat the acorns from the inside out as they grow to maturity. Acorns with weevils in them will not grow.
How can you tell if you have a weevil infestation? Collect about 20 acorns. Take these acorns to a hard surface, and step on them to crack them open. They should be soft and tan, but they should not have any darker brown patches that distintegrate into powder. If the inside is discolored, poke around and you should actually be able to see a small grub a little smaller than a grain of rice. If more than half of the 20 acorns have holes or weevil grubs, then the entire tree is not worth collecting from this year- try again next year! If most of the acorns pass this test, then odds are the entire tree will have good acorns!
We are also accepting seeds from almost any other native tree or shrub, such as hickories, hazelnuts, elderberries, native viburnums, witch hazel, dogwoods, and many others. Any questions- let us know!
Acorns should be identified and labeled with the name of the species (scientific or common). If you are unsure, place a leaf from the oak tree into the bag for identification. They must also be separated based on whether they were collected from an upland or lowland area. (Example: Bur Oak acorns should be in a different bag than Red Oak acorns, and Scarlet Oak acorns collected from a lowland should be in a different bag than Scarlet Oak acorns collected from an upland.)
Check for damage before placing them in a plastic bag. Use of a plastic bag, instead of a paper bag, is to ensure the nuts do not dry out. Be sure to attach a tag to each bag listing the species name, date collected and general location of collection. Keep the acorns in a cool location, out of the sun, and try to deliver them to our office in Woodstock within a week or two of collection.