Statewide expansion of hardwood habitat is the grand prize for a unique scavenger hunt open to all Virginia landowners.
The Virginia Department of Forestry is collecting a variety of acorn species and nuts that can be planted at its Augusta Forestry Center in Crimora. The seeds from these nuts will produce 2023’s hardwood seedling crop and be sold to Virginia forestland owners, typically to reforest open lands.
State foresters said seedlings sprouted from Virginia-grown acorns generally produce trees that will best thrive in Virginia’s climates. But some of those seeds are hard to procure in abundance. Species needed include black oak, black walnut, Chinese chestnut, chestnut oak, live oak, northern red oak, pin oak, southern red oak, swamp chestnut oak, swamp white oak, white oak and willow oak.
“Virginia Farm Bureau and other associations helped us get about $300,000 from the (state’s) general fund last General Assembly session to expand our Augusta nursery,” said Ed Zimmer, deputy state forester. “A lifting machine, sprayers and irrigation pipe will allow us to expand about seven acres of fields there for the 2023 planting crop, so we’re tripling the amount of acorns we’re ordering from bulk producers. We hope to have about 1.3 million hardwoods and 2.3 million conifers.”
The public can help with that effort by collecting and donating acorns. September and October are the best months for collecting in most areas of the state. This year’s deadline for receiving acorns is October 15.
“Acorn collection can be a fun activity for both children and adults,” Zimmer said. “And it provides an opportunity to learn more about Virginia tree species.”
Foresters said acorn collectors should look for healthy trees by avoiding those with bulges or insect infestation, and those that appear diseased or deformed.
Make sure each burlap or paper collection bag of seed is labeled with the species, source location and date. Do not mix nuts from different species in the same bag. Store collected nuts in a cool area (not a freezer) for no more than 10 days before delivering to a VDOF office. Bags also can be mailed directly to the Augusta Forestry Center at 90 Forestry Center Lane, Crimora, VA 24431.
More details and identification tips are available on the VDOF website and from the Augusta Forestry Center, 540-363-7000.