Acting Like a Squirrel

Posted by on Oct 22, 2019 in fall, seeds, Unmowed Blog, wildlife | 0 comments

It’s a very good year for acorns this year. A very good year. The red oaks have dropped them in heaps on the forest floor. Black walnuts are scattered across my lawn like mounds of discarded tennis balls. And wild apples are thick in the grass.

This year is what’s known as a “mast year.” Mast is an old-fashioned word for the fruits of forest, the fruits humans don’t usually gather: hickory nuts, butternuts, and wild sour apples and such. And a mast year is a year in which certain types of trees produce much more fruit than usual. Hundreds of thousands more acorns, beechnuts, hickory nuts, black walnuts, whatever.

No one knows exactly why this happens. One theory is that the trees are producing way more food than the squirrels, mice, chipmunks, etc. can possibly eat. Therefore, there will be lots of leftovers, to sprout and grow into new trees next spring.

Only problem with this plan is that the black walnut tree in my backyard is so close to the house that the dogs chase away any squirrel who comes close. The squirrels mange to sneak in and get a few nuts, but most of the tree’s bounty is just piled up on the lawn for me to trip over. So the walnuts won’t be spread through the land by squirrels, and therefore the seeds won’t go on to fulfill their destiny as majestic black walnut trees.

So I’m taking the role of squirrel. Every time I take a walk, I put a few walnuts, or acorns, or wild sour apples in my pocket, and I toss them into the hedgerows and patches of forest. I scatter them around the yard, toss them along trailsides, and drop them anywhere there seems to be a patch of promising ground.

Will the seeds take root and sprout? Will future generations of bluejays, wild turkeys, and chipmunks feast on the apples and acorns I plant today? Will a hungry squirrel hoard black walnuts I’ve sown? I’ll never know.



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