Boom Acorn Drop: A Predictor?

Acorn Drop on Patio Photo by Faye

Acorn Drop on Patio
Photo by Faye

Weather folklore:

Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry, will cause snow to gather in a hurry.

 I awaken these mornings to the sound of acorns pummeling off the solarium glass roof adjacent to my bedroom. Usually, the rat-a-tat cacophony arrives in early fall. The sheer volume, like marbles falling from the sky, landing on my patio, is disconcerting.

Perhaps, it’s the fact that as a gardener, I live close to the ground. I check plantings, their needs, aware of baby rabbits chewing tender plants, aphids nestling on tree leaves and plants. This summer, I’m on alert about the extremes—soaring temperatures, the absence of rain, the shrinking pond water, the withering oaks.

In contrast, the squirrels and chipmunks are whizzing about, on speed mode. Everywhere on my patio there is evidence of these critters at work. Acorn shells are scattered and broken. Squirrels leaping up and down the pine branches alongside the driveway are fat-bellied. Chipmunks scurry and bolt in and out of their rock fence holes with lightening speed. These burrowing and arboreal rodents appear to be preparing for the worst.

Could the worst be an early and lengthy, snow-piled-high winter? In the midst of heat and drought— I became curious about the relationship of massive acorn drops and winter. Could there be a correlation?

Gratefully, I turned to Google for facts. According to the August 9th Blog of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, oak trees have irregular cycles of boom and bust. Boom times are called “mast years” and occur every two to five years.

Thankfully, a mast year is not a predictor of a severe winter ahead. Ironically, a study reported on the Accu-Weather Blog indicates that to understand a boom acorn drop, we need hindsight. Yes, looking back at the life cycle of the oak and how it births acorns gives us data for the future.

The volume of acorn production each year is partially controlled by external factors like the effect of precipitation on acorn development. The acorns of today began forming 2-3 years ago. As a result, the acorn crop piling up on my patio, in my lily beds, circling the hosta plants, rolling down the hill onto the driveway, was set in motion during the past MILD winters. The mild weather allows the trees to conserve resources and produce more acorns.

Case in point: two years ago, during the winter of 2014, my patio was piled six to eight feet high in snow and ice. In comparison, last winter was very mild. It was the 2nd warmest on record in Boston, just behind the winter of 2001-02. A major part of that was December, which was a standout month for remarkable warmth. No wonder the acorn harvest is a banner crop this season.

Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry have no bearing on snow gathering in a hurry. Once again, I am grateful to realize how important it is to consider possibility and complexity when delving into observations from nature.







9 thoughts on “Boom Acorn Drop: A Predictor?

  1. Elizabeth Levinsky

    Very interesting! Glad that those acorns are not a predictor of a long cold and snowy winter! Tell Marvin that we say thank for the DVD. Most of the photos are new to us.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      I know, that was my worry…Glad you are enjoying the DVD. I’ll tell Marv.

  2. Hy kempler

    Thanks Faye for a fun and informative piece. I marvel at your appreciation of nature. I appreciate the descriptive language.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Thanks for the feedback. I pondered over the sentence, “I live close to the ground…” realizing how much and how often this house and its location sets the stage for so much observing and appreciating. I do enjoy writing about the natural world!

  3. sheila

    Now I can add acorns falling all around to the many subtle signs of the coming season, the shortening days, the messages about fall courses. But the sun is still shining and warm, jackets are still in the closet and my pace is slower.
    so Faye, Gratitude.

  4. Heather Christie

    Faye, oh what fun to learn about the life cycle of an acorn. I am grateful for your continued revelations! Thank you for putting your thoughts into the world!

  5. Rosemary Booth

    I like how this piece draws on the writer’s experience to build a lively image of acorns, heavy as hail, hitting the roof. Further, I like that she doesn’t take for granted what “squirrel/chipmunk flurry” might mean for coming winter weather–but chooses to investigate.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Rosemary, I enjoy your “heavy as hail” comment and the connection to the dreaded reminder. I hoped against hope that my research would not lead me to conclude 1 + 1 = 2 and thankfully, it paid off!

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