Burr Oak

Back to the same old story: If you want to know what you’ve got, get down to the simplest unit. In the case of a tree, you may see all kinds of crazy things growing off of an adult. I have seen a tree that was two separate species (a conifer and a leafy tree no less) grown together into what appeared to be one. That was at Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center, and I was only beginning to notice that the things in the world around me, trees and birds and weeds; they had names, and some people knew what they were. I remember asking what a very beautiful pink flowered tree was, and learning it was a Redbud. Now I would call it one of my favorite trees, but truly we haven’t been on a first-name basis for all that long.

The basic unit of a tree is the fruit, the union of male and female DNA that, if all goes very well, will grow into a new individual. And the unit of an oak is an acorn. In Spanish it’s a bellota, the symbol of the region of Spain that I lived in once. Extremadura’s free running pigs that grow up to be so delicious as jamón ibérico (to those of us who were not vegetarians while we lived there- alas and alack) eat a diet of delicious Holm Oak acorns. I carried a keychain of this long acorn for years, given to me as a parting gift, and only recently did it really dawn on me that it was from an Oak tree.

Each species of Oak has a unique  acorn. This is the amazing basic unit. Finding and acorn is by far the best way to identify a tree. It has gotten me to thinking about fetal growth and development. A little mammal, humans included, starts out looking very similar to other animals. Most go through a period of gill growth, a remnant of our watery past, before growing and shedding more layers and beginning to look like a small somewhat alien version of their parent species.

Perhaps in more fetal form acorns look more like each other. I am dubious though, because at least from the point at which they are visible to me they really do look like mini versions of the full-size acorn. The Northern Red Oak acorn, as my tree teachers all say, wears the teeniest of caps, a beret! The Black Oak acorn wears a larger, shreddier, ski cap over its nut.

Still I was not prepared for what awaited me just in front of the National Capital Grounds on Saturday when Melanie took us on our last Fall Tree Field Trip.

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This acorn earned the tree the Latin name Quercus macrocarpa, for big bodied (acorn) Oak. And this is a big acorn, with a huge cap nearly covering it.

Here is one more photo with characteristic white oak leaves in the background.

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2 responses to “Burr Oak

  1. Pingback: Dodging the Falling Acorns | INSPIRE YOUR HEART

  2. Pingback: Autumn Cascade | everycreepingthing

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