November 30, 2008

Botanists puzzle over lack of acorns

Botanists say they're puzzled about why oak trees from Virginia to Kansas and north to Nova Scotia failed to produce acorns this year.

It's a zero year. There's zero production. I've never seen anything like this before, said Rod Simmons, a field botanist in Virginia.

At least 20 different species of oak trees in a large swath of North America failed to produce acorns this year and botanists are watching closely to determine if it is part of a natural cycle for the trees, which can live more than 200 years, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The cause also may be weather-related or environmental and related to global warning, though botanists in other parts of North America report a normal acorn harvest, the Post reported.

If you're a squirrel, it's a big worry. But it's no problem for the oak tree. They live a long time. They'll produce acorns again when they're ready to, said Alan Whittemire, a botanist at the U.S. Arboretum in Washington.