It’s a weekend to celebrate our mystery column: This is the two hundredth mystery post on The Squirrel Nutwork!
And what better way to celebrate than with a mystery acorn!
Sigh, isn’t that a lovely sight?
That’s not too hard, is it? I mean, to guess what type of oak tree it came from?
I’ll check for your guesses in the comments–and if you really want a hint…here is one pictured below.
This beautiful acorn is from the Black Oak, Quercus velutina. Yes, it’s hard to tell the similar leaves of the black and red oak families apart. One way is the acorns. The Black Oak acorns are shorter and round. The leaves of the Black Oak turn a coppery color in the fall, not red like the Northern Red Oak. And, this is the best leaf difference any time of year, on the back of a Black Oak leaf, tufts of hair fill the angle of space between the main vein and the branching veins (called the axil!). Hope you human readers can see those tufts on the lower, yellowish, dotted leaf.
But either tree is beautiful to us squirrels and the acorns tasty!
And falling like crazy with the winds coming through!
Isn’t that a gorgeous tree! It’s an oak, and common, maybe more so than you humans realize.
Chestnut Oak, Quercus prinus, is easily identified by its large rounded teeth along the margins of the leaves and growing in the higher, drier soils. The acorns are bigger than most oaks, and oval in shape.
And speaking of acorns… We squirrels are having a plentiful year, but as always, it’s a tiring chore preparing for winter. A regular reader asked if we’d be taking our winter hiatus again, and the answer is yes. We have some catching up to do. Nutmeg and I need to pick when, but it’ll be soon.
Back with your mystery this week. Here’s a thing Nutmeg and I saw a few weeks ago…had to wait to for it to finish up before I could post for you good folks.
Know what it is? Give us a guess in the comments!
Sorry! I had an unexpected delay, and I see so many of you checked in that I am embarrassed. No guesses, but no surprise because we also didn’t know what it was and had to check back as the tree grew its leaves out… (that was a hint!)
This photo is from early spring, the emerging leaves of a Willow Oak tree! Willow Oak, Quercus phellos, is a large native tree growing to 120 feet in the eastern and central U.S. As the name suggests, the leaves are more like those on a willow tree–and certainly skinny as they unfurl.
They have no teeth or lobes and turn yellow to yellow-tan in the fall. We squirrels love the acorns, but when the trees are deep in the woods–usually along marshes–we have to share with Wild Turkey, Wood Ducks, Red-headed Woodpeckers, deer and tore mammals like raccoons, and opossums and a host of birds. The Fairfax County Park Authority has a long list on their Willow Oak page.
It was fun to see this newly planted tree in our suburban neighborhood.
How about considering this species for your yard? You’d make a lot of squirrels happy! And maybe some turkeys, woodpeckers, bobwhite…
We squirrels at The Squirrel Nutwork love our A to Z Challenge. This year marks our 5th in the challenge and the start of our 5th year blogging. We have a small but faithful following of mostly–we think–human readers. Our 200th follower just joined us yesterday! Welcome BloominBootiful! She describes her blog as ‘A girl and her garden’ which is a great match for us, ‘connecting to nature in suburban D. C.’
Yes, we write about nature and science and people and how we all get along. Thus, our A to Z topics are all about nature, too. What we find interesting in our little corner of Northern Virginia.
Every year we start our April Blogging Challenge with the same letter, ‘A’ and the same item, Acorns.
Acorns, like these Black Oak acorns, are very important to squirrels around the world, because we eat them. A lot of them! People sometimes prepare acorns and eat them, too. We are not advising you humans try this unless you look up how to prepare the acorns just right for you, so just trust us, acorns are a healthy food for squirrels.