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Where to gather Acorns

Acorns mature and drop during late summer and early fall, from September to December. Watch for wildlife gathering acorns as a clue to seed maturity.

Oak trees use the wind to spread their pollen. Because of this, trees can only pollinate other trees within about a 60 meter area. The best place to collect acorns is an area with a big group of oak trees of the same species. Individual heritage oaks, such as those you see in parking lots and new developments often don’t produce acorns due to a lack of pollination and other factors.

Select a park, national or state forest or other public area with lots of oaks. Check with park managers about regulations or restrictions that may prohibit collecting acorns. If you collect on private property, be sure to obtain the owner’s permission before entering to collect seeds. California has explicit laws about gathering plant materials and it is important to remember that these regulations are designed to protect both plants and wildlife species.

Try to collect acorns from trees growing close to where you intend to plant the new trees. This will ensure that the oak stand will have new members that are genetically related to each other and are adapted to the environmental conditions of that site. Gathering acorns from an area with both native and not native oaks is not recommended because your acorns may produce hybrid trees. There is no way to tell if your acorns are hybrids by looking at them. Hybrids can have unexpected and negative impacts on wildlife and native tree populations.

Once you have identified a location for gathering acorns, plan a Tree Steward fieldwork trip to collect enough seeds to carry out this project. Providing students with a first-hand experience to view oaks, gather and test acorns and conduct other investigations will help build their knowledge, understanding and appreciation of oaks.