September 21, 2008

State Asking Residents to Get Nutty


By Eric Feber

The Virginian-Pilot

The state's Department of Forestry is asking residents to get a little squirrelly. They want you to round up as many nuts as you can.

And that doesn't mean you should turn in spooky ol' Uncle Elmo or your weird cousin Harold, the Virginia Department of Forestry (D.O.F.) simply needs help collecting "tree nuts," better known as acorns.

As part of its year-round "Going Native" volunteer project, the D.O.F is calling on residents to help preserve native Virginia tree species by collecting acorns and seeds from 11 different types and deliver them to regional nurseries and offices. Those types are black oak, cherrybark oak, chestnut oak, Chinese chestnut, northern red oak, pin oak, southern red oak, swamp chestnut oak, swamp white oak, willow oak and white oak.

Volunteer collectors will more than likely gather up acorns from a pair of tree species.

"Typically, you'll generally find red oak and white oak around this area," said Harvey Darden, Chesapeake-Virginia Beach forester with the state's regional D.O.F. office.

Locally, volunteer gatherers are asked to drop the acorns at the Chesapeake-Virginia Beach office at 3909 Airline Blvd. in Chesapeake.

Collectors are asked to identify each acorn type, and keep each type in separate paper bags or baskets.

So, how does Mr. or Ms. Average Citizen, who hasn't taken botany, identify each specific acorn type? Stay under the tree that's shedding the acorns.

"Just collect directly underneath or near whichever oak tree you're under," Darden said. "You can differentiate between each tree by the different leaves, and each tree type has different acorns."

One can also visit, click on "Acorn collecting and handling procedures," and read the list of various tree species with each corresponding acorn type description.

Volunteers are asked not to utilize plastic bags.

"You need to use receptacles that will allow some air to get to these acorns," Darden explained.

But don't let the acorns dry out, either.

"They do need to be kept moist. If not, it will reduce their possibility to germinate," he said.

The acorns become bountiful from late August through October, with the best time to collect between now through the first week in October.

After collecting the acorns, make sure you call the Chesapeake- Virginia Beach D.O.F. office at 465-6840 before making your delivery.

So, as a way to propagate and preserve native Virginia trees that also help restore and protect rivers and streams in the Potomac River watershed, it's time to go gathering nuts in September.

Eric Feber, 222-5203, [email protected]

Originally published by BY ERIC FEBER.

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