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December 9, 2019

Naturalists Declare 2019 a “Mast Year” for New England’s Oak Trees

This Year, Oak Trees Dropped Vast Quantities of Acorns, Presenting Risk and Cleanup Headaches

The Autumn 2019 New England acorn “harvest” will go down in record books as a veritable bumper crop. Tons of acorns, literally, fell onto streets and cars, bike lanes and bikers, and sidewalks and pedestrians, making 2019 what’s known as a “mast year.”

Oak trees experience boom and bust life cycles, influenced by weather, causing the volume of fruit that oak trees produce – acorns – to vary from year to year. Quoted in the Boston Globe, Mass Audubon naturalist Marjorie Rines declared, “There’s definitely tons more around. It’s been coming down pretty hard and fast.” The onslaught has been so intense that hundreds of city residents across the region filed requests for city street sweepers to make special passes through their neighborhoods.

In such large quantities, acorns can make casual nature walks hazardous due to the heightened risk of slips and falls. But even worse, falling acorns, serving as miniature projectiles, pose risk to humans, critters and cars. Acorn proliferation is most likely to occur wherever oak trees comprise a large percentage of the canopy – the upper layer of plant growth formed by the crowns of mature trees. Canopy trees do not have to compete with other trees for available sunlight, which enhances flowering and fruiting.

While falling acorns can injure living beings and dent bikes and cars, on the plus side, they provide sustenance to squirrels, chipmunks and some species of birds. Access to an abundant food supply is especially critical for our furry and feathered friends heading into winter.

Of course, intermittent heavy acorn production has implications for future tree growth. Mast years typically lead to high levels of “seedling recruitment” in the years that follow.

All tree species experience bust-and-boom cycles, but only oak trees produce acorns. Acorns require one to two years to form. Temperatures and precipitation levels during that period help determine the size of each year’s acorn “crop.”

This nature news update is presented by the Butcher Block Co., whose online store sells butcher block and plank-style countertops, island tops, tables and carts in fifteen different species, including White Oak and Red Oak.

For more information, please visit Butcher Block Co.

Contact Info:
Name: Kathleen Grodsky
Organization: Butcher Block Co.
Address: 10448 N 21st Pl Phoenix, Arizona 85028
Phone: (877) 845-5597