Got acorns? California's valley oaks are bearing exceptional crops this fall. "We're drowning in acorns," says UC Davis oak expert Bethallyn Black, a Cooperative Extension specialist based in Pleasant Hill.
Here are some of the most common questions Black is asked, and her answers.
Q.: Do all these acorns mean we will have a cold winter?
A.: No. Trees have no ability to predict the future. It's not what is going to happen, it is what did happen: The January freeze killed some acorn-eating insects, and the unusually dry April helped a lot of acorn flowers to be pollinated by wind.
Q.: Are all these acorns in my yard going to sprout?
A.: Only one in 10,000 acorns grows into a tree. Even those won't sprout unless we get average rainfall in January through March, which wets the soil enough for an acorn's tap root to take hold. The long-range forecast doesn't look promising for that much rain.
Q.: And if the forecast is wrong?
A.: If you don't want your yard to turn into an oak savannah, dig them up.
Q.: We have a growing turkey population in our town. Are the acorns going to have an impact?
A.: Probably. My neighborhood in Walnut Creek has a flock of 30 or 40 thug turkeys walking around, flexing their big muscles. They love acorns and, with this huge food resource, I am anticipating we will have a lot of healthy baby turkeys next spring. Lots of ground squirrels and feral pigs, too.
Q.: What can I do with all these acorns?
A.: You could get a turkey-squirrel-pig. Otherwise, rake them up and put them with your other yard trimmings.
And yes, Native Americans ate acorn meal, but grinding and leaching them is a lot of work. And no, wildland managers who plant acorns for restoration do not need any more; they have plenty of their own.
Q.: Any other ideas?
A.: Make an acorn cap whistle. Directions: www.sciencetoymaker.org/acorn/assembl.html.
Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556, email@example.com