One More Nutty Article

November 3, 2013

Dudley Wooten

Outdoors Columnist

Each year we sell more and more trees for wildlife. We sell more apple, pear, and oaks. Today’s landscape market is about people’s homes, farms, and recreation. Many people buy oaks for the shade but, many buy them for deer, turkey and squirrel watching and hunting, also.

When a customer wants Oak trees, they probably want fast growth, and good fall color. If they want wildlife Oaks, they specify acorn flavor and quantity. Today’s market has a “Gobbler” Oak, and a “Kimberly” Oak. We sell these as two of the highest acorn producing Oaks available. The Gobbler variety is a saw tooth Oak, and the Kimberly is a hybrid cross of Bur Oak and Swamp White Oak. This offers a solution to both wet and dry sites. We have sold Oaks to feed deer and squirrel, to train young hunters, and flavor burgoo, or hunter’s stew.

We also sell many Oaks for landscaping. The most popular for yard shade and ornament would be Pin Oak, Red Oak, White Oak, Willow Oak and Chinkapin Oak. These are all sturdy trees for shade and fall color.

When you think of oaks, their connection with mankind is huge. Myth and folklore would tell us of weather gods of thunder and lightning, and sacred Oaks. The Oak is indeed the favorite target of lightning, and this brings up Zeus and Thor. Long ago, in Europe, tales of Robin Hood in Sherwood forest, King Arthur and his knights of the round (solid Oak) table, and Pliney’s Celtic druids cutting mistletoe from the ancient Oaks with golden sycles, were common place. These tales about the round table are very believable, while a character in tights swinging through the Oaks with a guy named little John or friar tuck, robbing the rich and giving it to the poor, I believe is possible, but not probable. Pliney the elder was a military commander and writer. He was never in Gaul, didn’t know any druids, and had no golden sycle collection. My dad told me that if I was to succeed in business I would need to know how to tell the “prospects” from the “suspects.” I find one of the previously mentioned stories possible and the other suspicious, at best. Speaking of suspicious, you know Druid meant “oak men” and they burned poor old Joan of Ark at the stake, based on evidence of her dancing and skipping around hanging garlands on an Oak fairy?

In Great Britain and Germany, Silvanus, commonly known as the man of the forest, is portrayed as a man of the forest and having Oak leaves as his food and clothing.

The mighty Oaks have been used in many a sea-faring vessel. They, also, have been the favorite cannon carriage wood. England thought her English Oak (Quercus Rubor) was great. Shakespeare’s second best bed was made of it, and the Mayflower was made of it, but America’s White Oak and White Pine proved superior.

The mast (or acorn) production of the Oaks is great for reforestation, but man has long used them for feeding hogs, making bread, and treating diarrhea, hemorrhoids, dysentery, and gum disease. The tannic acid in the Oak is how it does this. This same tannic acid aids in tanning hides and aging wine and whiskey. The cork Oak of Portugal and Spain, is a continuous producer of cork. One (Quercus Suber) cork Oak, once it is 25 years old, can be “peeled” every 9 years. One tree can usually live 150-200 years and each peeling produces enough to “cork” 4,000 bottles of wine. Do you realize that rayon is made of wood fiber (cellulose nitration) and that since 1911, the rayon consumption has become 4x that of wool and 6x that of silk?

We all have heard of famous American Oaks such as the charter Oak (Connecticut-Rev. War.) The wye Oak (Maryland-largest in the U.S,) California White Oak (our tallest white oak,) twelve Oaks (Wilkes estate in Gone with the Wind,) old ironsides (famous battleship), Lafitte Oaks (Louisiana-famous pirate), jumping frog contest Oak-(M.Twain-Ca.) just to name a few.

What is an Oak? It is a tree that produces acorns and has multiple terminal buds on the twigs. The leaves may have pointed or rounded lobes, or a long entire margin like a willow. You can group Oaks into families –white or red.

White Oaks will have a whiter wood. They will have rounded lobes on the leaves, and gray plated bark. Their acorns mature every season and are normally sweeter and preferred by wildlife and Native Americans.

The Red Oaks (A.K.A –Black Oaks) will have pointed leaf lobes, and a darker furrowed bark. They will bear on alternate years, and have a more bitter taste. The wood is redder than White Oak and both have a tell-tale grain and “rays”.

The number of Oak species is between 2-300. The Oak tend to cross-breed or “hybridize” and this confuses identification. Let’s talk about the eastern favorites.

The prime eastern White Oaks would be the White Oak (Alba), Bur Oak (Macrocarpa), Post Oak (Stellate), Swamp White Oak (Bicolor), Chinkapin Oak (Muehlenberg), and Chestnut Oak (Prinus).

The Red Oaks in our area include-Northern Red Oak (rubra), Pin Oak (Palustris), Black Oak (Velutina), Scarlet Oak (Coccinea), and Willow Oak (Phellos). The genus name for all Oaks is Quercus.

The average Oak will start providing acorns at about 10 years of age, and the average mature Oak produces about 500 acorns, annually. Don’t be alarmed that Oaks will take over the world, because only about 1% of the acorns mature as a tree. Most acorns (83%) are eaten- by animals, 10% are naturally inperfect, and 6% are attacked by weevils. I see it like this- we could collect and ship the inperfect and “weeviled” ones to Ann Arbor, let them make acorn coffee, Oak wine, and Oak syrup out of them, to go with their humble pie. Go Bucks!

Dudley Wooten can be reached at 740-820-8210 or by visiting wootenslandscaping.com