City Cast

Do More Acorn Sightings Mean A Harsh Winter?

Brooke Lewis
Posted on November 14
An acorn hangs off green leaves with a blue sky poking through.

A red oak acorn at Houston Arboretum. (Houston Arboretum)

The Houston Arboretum staff have noticed a great number of acorns on the grounds. Sometimes a large number of acorns can foreshadow a rough winter. In Houston, we have red oak and white oak trees that produce acorns every year. These acorns also provide food for wildlife during the winter months. Let’s learn more from Tiffany Ritter, Education Director at Houston Arboretum.

“On white oaks, the acorns mature in one growing season, but red oak acorns may take two to five years to reach maturity. During years when the white and red oaks are both releasing a plethora of mature acorns, we call this a 'mast year.'

There is some folklore that this will predict a harsh cold winter, but interestingly, scientists are still unclear as to what really causes these abundant crop yields. Whatever the reason, I think the squirrels, mice, and blue jays will be very fat and happy this winter! Oak trees benefit from these mast years, as well, because the critters can’t eat them all – leaving plenty to germinate and grow.

Curious if you’ve come across a red or white oak? The easiest way to tell is by looking at the lobes of the leaves. Red oaks have slender bristles or “awns” at the tips of their leaves and the main lobes. White oaks have smooth rounded lobes and no awns."

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