Normally acorns would be dropping all over the Old Town area of Oak Harbor by now, but it seems this year the acorn harvest is in very short supply. The same acorn shortage is true for SE Vancouver Island and San Juan Island’s Garry oaks. We believe the scant acorn production is due to the summer drought.
It seems Oak Harbor’s acorns stand up better than others in Washington State when it comes to drought tolerance. Matthew Mertz, of Central Washington University, in his 2015 Master’s Thesis titled Physiological variation of Garry oak (Quercus garryana) seedlings to drought stress, showed that Oak Harbor’s acorns survived even better than acorns gleaned from eastern Washington!
Acorns were in the spotlight as members of the Oak Harbor Garry Oak Society, along with Whidbey Conservation District staff, taught elementary students at our “Grow a Garry Oak” event in early October. Nearly a dozen kids, from first grade through fifth, from the Montessori School, Der Kinderhuis, enjoyed learning in Smith Park, surrounded by mature Garry oaks. The kids were read a story about an acorn planted by a youngster that grew into a mighty oak tree. They got to play a game in which they learned the parts of a tree and then role played the part. A picnic table afforded up close examination of acorns, leaves, twigs, bark, lichens and mosses, and a cross-section of heavy oak wood. There was also a habitat cavity to explore, and real-life birds to observe. Lastly, each kid got to plant two float-tested Garry oak acorns in a pot to take home to nurture. We hope the fun experience will be long remembered.