Acorn collecting time again

12 Sep 2018

It's acorn collecting time again and it has never been so important to select from UK providence trees with the occurrence of Oak Processionary Moth being so rife on trees from the continent. This time around we didn’t have to search far for our selection, The Barcham Oak is just outside our 35 acre road field and we have estimated it to be over 200 years old and maybe as old as 300. In oak terms this doesn’t sound too dramatic but in Fen terms it is quite remarkable. Much of our nursery site is below or at sea level and the area only became a reliable place to colonize after the fens were drained in the 1650's.

So, in historic fen terms, this tree is quite a rarity and it set a bumper crop of acorns this time around, unlike one of my other favourites the Fotheringhay Oak which was completely baron this year after setting a great crop last year. This is often the way of old trees so we end up taking from various UK providence seed source over a ten year period.

The acorns are taken in their cups direct from the tree using a cherry picker so you have got to have a head for heights working here. By taking them from the tree when they are fully ripe, the acorns don’t suffer the damage of hitting the ground and we have them lined out in their seed frame the same day to avoid dehydration. In nature it is said that one seed out of a million gets to grow to a mature tree, like baby turtles scurrying down the beach not many make it to ultimate safety. By taking as many variables out of the equation as possible we should get about 700 germinations per 1000 acorns sowed and ultimately should have about 350 of these come through at harvestable size in about 2024. We shorten the odds considerably by right time, right place and in time.

Let's hope these oak don’t have the worry about Oak Processionary Moth when they are older. Government legislation has recently come in to limit imports of Oak from the continent that carry the eggs from this horrid pest which carries a threat to human health. If this legislation is followed as it is written then no Quercus should be able to be imported from Holland as the pest is completely rife over there after its first sighting 16 years ago.

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