DES MOINES — Iowa is known as the king of corn but lately, there also appears to be a bumper crop of acorns. Anyone who’s taken a walk near oak trees has crunched across many hundreds of the dime-sized seeds with the cute caps.
Mike Reinikainen is a silviculturist, or an expert forester, and he says that abundance of acorns is called “oak masting” and it’s a cycle of nature. “They are kind of in this dance with seed predators. The thought is, they are able to overcome their seed predators by putting out a lot of seed and once and at the same time,” Reinikainen says. “They take breaks for years where they are not producing a lot of seed. That population of seed predators drops and they throw a lot of seed out again all at once to overwhelm what’s there for seed predators and grow oak trees again.”
Iowa’s been weathering a drought for several years and we’ve seen a slew of 100-degree records set in recent weeks. Reinikainen says that’s all playing a role in the oak masting as fall approaches. “You’ve got this mast setting up because conditions were very good in the spring for the tree to produce seed but then the tree was stressed by the drought and you see the seed drop off early,” he says. “It gets green. The seed might be smaller.”
Iowa homeowners with oaks on their property don’t need to be concerned. Reinikainen says there is no evidence to suggest acorns damage your lawn by changing the p-H balance of the soil, but most people rake them up as a matter of comfort for bare feet or because they’re unsightly.