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Oaks and Acorns

I love oak trees.  They are so stately.  They seem to me a symbol of strength in nature– quiet, steadfast strength.  I’ve read of oak trees 200, 300, even 400 years old.  We even have a couple of big old oaks here on the farm that are probably 100 – 200 years old.  Their leaves, too, are tougher, thicker, and last longer on the forest floor even after they have fallen than do leaves of other trees, such as the maple, for instance.

Identifying these trees, however, has proved to be a bit tricky.  
“There is a great variation in the shape of the leaves on the same tree, and while the black, the red, and the scarlet oaks are well-marked species, it is possible to find leaves on these three different trees which are similar in shape.  Oaks also hybridize, and thus their leaves are a puzzle to the botanist.” 
Handbook of Nature Study, page 639

But, tricky or not, the kids and I did our best to identify the leaves and acorns we picked up in the woods last week on our walks.  Almost all the leaves have fallen off the trees, but there are still plenty to observe on the ground below where they lie in a deep blanket all over the forest floor.  To find the acorns, we had to push through this blanket to where they were hiding under the newly fallen leaves.
Here are some of the kinds of leaves we think we have identified correctly.  🙂

Black Oak

White Oak

Scarlet Oak

Chestnut Oak

The kids made leaf prints using an ink pad and sketched acorns into their nature notebooks.  The leaf prints didn’t show up as boldly as we would have liked, so the kids wanted to trace the outline to make them show up a little better.



One exciting discovery we made while digging around for acorns was this nut starting to sprout!  We found it in a rotting log.  At first we were sure it was an acorn, but then thought maybe it was a hickory nut.  Anybody know for sure?  Anyway, Allison wanted to bring it home and plant it in a container, hoping maybe we could watch it grow.  We’ll see!


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