When is the acorn collection season?
I had a text alert come through last week to say that my favourite English Oak , Quercus robur, had enough acorns to harvest this year. This particular oak we have named the Fotheringhay Oak from where it has grown undisturbed for the best part of over 600 years. This means it was probably around when Richard the Third was born at the nearby Fotheringhay Castle in 1452 and certainly around when Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at the same location in 1587.
I visit this magnificent tree every September in the hope that I can harvest acorns to secure a crop of providence seed from a very historic tree. It is tucked away, about a half mile walk from where I have to abandon my car, and most times I leave empty handed but this year I was rewarded by a bumper crop. The last time I picked from this tree was in 2011 and I have never picked ripe acorns as early as August before. I am very grateful to Stephen Long who both introduced me to this tree in the first place and keeps tabs on it for me to alert me of any acorn potential. This year he laid on a telescopic machine which took us all the way into the tree's canopy to get the juicy acorns that my step ladder won't reach.
Most Oaks are imported these days and this is why we now have Oak Processionary Moth in the Country, a pest that can give rise to symptoms resembling a full on asthmatic attack if the caterpillars hairs are inhaled. Imported trees like this made it into the Olympic Village in London and lax biosecurity is now costing the UK tax payer millions of pounds in a forlorn effort to firefight pest and disease outbreaks.
At Barcham we take a different approach. By majoring on a tree like the Fotheringhay Oak we are banking on the providence of a tree that has thrived for centuries and come through droughts, downpours, hurricanes and intense heat and cold. This tree has a history of winning despite the odds and we ride on the back of its success. It is in tune with the UK environment and its offspring stand an exceptionally good chance of being equipped with the same coding.
We will line the acorns out in their seedbed today after yesterday's harvest. They germinate in the spring and we leave them a growing season before potting them up to grow on in 5 litre Light Pots for another year. From there we plant them in the field and harvest them for sale within our medium sized range about 4 years after that. This takes longer that buying a finished Oak from Holland as most nurseries do but at least you know the providence of our stock and that they do not pose a risk to the UK environment.
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