CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Whether you are out for a walk with your dog or raking leaves in your yard, you may have noticed more acorns this year than usual.
There are more than 90 species of oak trees in Massachusetts and during the fall season, those trees will drop acorns to the ground. While the goal of this is for them to grow into new oak trees, creatures such as squirrels, chipmunks and deer feast on these nuts.
According to Mass Audubon, every few years these oak trees will drop a large amount of acorns all at once, which is called a “mast year.” This can occur every two to five years and can vary region by region. Scientists in several other states in the Northeast have already reported this year as a mast year.
So why do these oak trees drop more acorns every few years? Scientists do not fully know yet but there is a clear benefit for the trees. One idea is that having years of low production of acorns will cause animals to move elsewhere for food. Then during a mast year, when a large amount of acorns drop, the animals left will not be able to eat all of the nuts, meaning there is a higher chance for the acorn to grow into an oak tree.
Nicole Keleher from the Department of Conservation and Reservation told 22News this event actually protects the longevity of the trees, “It’s a year where they produce so many, it overwhelms the total number that could ever get eaten and allows some of those to actually survive a little bit better, compared to if it was high every year the animal population would just build to that level.”
Keleher added that weather events don’t directly cause these acorn masts but more rain and heat can determine the success of a mast year.
“Now one acorn doesn’t seem like a lot, but a single oak tree can drop 10,000 of these in an acorn mass year,” said Keleher.
Time is still needed to determine if this year is considered a mast year in Massachusetts. No matter what year it is, oak trees produce more nuts than any other trees in the region. You may also find more pinecones on the ground this year as well.
A fun fact about acorns is that you can eat them! However, it’s not suggested to pick up an acorn and try to bite in it, you’ll need to boil it first. One ounce of acorn contains more calories than a can of Coca Cola.
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