Burr oak - I'm confussed

j-bird

Moderator
While out and about this weekend I noticed something. On the north end of my property I have a few burr oaks that are producing a few acorns. These are not large trees (largest is rougly 8-9" DBH). On the other end of the property (maybe 1/2 mile away) I have a much larger burr oak (roughly 24" DBH) and this tree has NEVER produced an acorn in the nearly 20 years I have been on the property. Soil type is very similar from what I can tell and exposure to sunlight isn't a issue either. No noticable physical condition issues either.

Why would the smaller trees be out-producing what I would assume is a much older tree? Do oaks require pollination?
 

THunter

5 year old buck +
The big one could be in a frost pocket.
 

j-bird

Moderator
Not a frost pocket - my area is pretty flat and the larger one is on plane with pretty much everything else. It is actually on a higher plane that quickly drops off a good 20 or 30 feet in elevation. The larger one is South of the others and my prevailing wind is from the West and Southwest so that might be part of it. I just hate seeing a beautiful bur sitting there doing nothing (WTF).
 

JackTerp

5 year old buck +
I have a gigantic old white oak that has never dropped an acorn in the 25 years we've been living here. I keep an eye on it every year, and have never found an acorn in it's branches. Red oaks all around it drop huge quantities though.
 

Jordan Selsor

5 year old buck +
I have a nice big white oak in my yard and it has not produced an acorn in 8 yrs:confused:
Weird. I built a retaining wall not far from it and thought maybe it was due to messing with its roots but that was a long time ago. I have given up on it...
 

Jordan Selsor

5 year old buck +
The big one could be in a frost pocket.
Not the case with mine I described above. I live on a sunny ridge top. What else could cause this?
 

chickenlittle

5 year old buck +
If it is not pollination or soil or moisture differences, it could be bad genetics.

This article references a short study (3 years) of white oaks. They found that in poor years, 25% of the oak trees produced almost all the acorns. In a bumper crop year, 25% of the trees produced 2/3 of the acorns. Nearly half of the oaks produce few or no acorns during the study. http://fwf.ag.utk.edu/personnel/charper/pdfs/Fertilizing oaks for acorns--Wildlife Trends.pdf

That article recommends tracking acorn production over at least 3 years and then culling poor performers if desired. Too much work for me.
 

j-bird

Moderator
Well damn! That figures - the best burr oak I have on the whole place, in a prime location and it's a bust! I'll give it a few years and see (I hate cutting a healthy oak) but an oak without acorns is as about a valuable to wildlife as an elm tree!
 

wiscwhip

5 year old buck +
If I were in this situation, and I was sure the tree was a non-producer, I would try something to possibly trigger it in to producing acorns. Try using a heavy fall application of 19-19-19 and lime all around the area under the canopy or try heavily pruning all of the dead and dying limbs and selectively pruning live limbs from the lower portion of the tree(be careful not to prune during oak wilt season though). Sometimes things like this can trigger a tree to try and reproduce. Really, what do you have to lose?
 
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N

non-pro-archer

Guest
If I were in this situation, and I was sure the tree was a non-producer, I would try something to possibly trigger it in to producing acorns. Try using a heavy fall application of 19-19-19 and lime all around the area under the canopy or try heavily pruning all of the dead and dying limbs and selectively pruning live limbs from the lower portion of the tree(be careful not to prune during oak wilt season though). Sometimes things like this can trigger a tree to try and reproduce. Really, what do you have to lose?
I would go for this before cutting it down if it was on my property
 

nwmn

5 year old buck +
I wouldn't cut it down regardless. I cherish any oak tree on our property, and especially any big oak. THat's due to us being in an area where there just arent that many mature woods so trees are a premium.

I would think tricking the tree into thinking it's dying, maybe trigger it into forcing itself to reproduce to ensure survival of the species. THat's my logic, may not make any sense, but it's worth a shot if the alternative is harvesting the tree.
 

j-bird

Moderator
I'll see if I can't talk it into giving up the goods - I'm quite the charmer! If that doesn't work I'll get a little rough with it - so much for charm! Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker comes to mind!!!
 

kskid

5 year old buck +
I'm always amazed at the difference in growth rate between south or east facing slopes and north or west facing slopes. I wouldn't think slope direction (amount of direct sunlight) would stop acorn production altogether, but possibly in combination with other adverse conditions like soil, nutrients, water, etc. it could play a role.

I wish I had so many that I could be comfortable cutting such a tree down. I'd keep it just for the potential of using it as a future stand site - I'm tired of hunting out of trees that look like power poles after Nov. 7!
 

OakSeeds

5 year old buck +
The subject matter of this thread reinforces why it is critical to know the parent history of acorns/seedlings one is going to plant for wildlife habitat. Some white oaks produce very frequently, some frequently, some infrequently, and some never or almost never. If you are going to spend time and money to plant and protect oak trees, for goodness sake make sure of the genetics of the parent tree (how often did it produce mast and in what quantities). It is a shame to wait several years only to learn you have a dud; know your supplier and his/her reputation. Just food for thought.

I believe sunshine definitely plays a role; in my experince, there are far more acorns on limbs on the south side of an oak tree in comparison to the number of acorns on limbs on the north side of the tree. However, when gathering acorns that have fallen on the ground - especially in warm or very warm weather - you are probably better off looking for as many as possible on the north side of a tree since the acorn will most likely have been protected from the sun (heat) whereas acorns on the south side of the tree may have been exposed to much more heat via direct sunlight.
 
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chickenlittle

5 year old buck +
Parent history is important but you do not know the parent history unless you are controlling the pollen source. Growing from seed means variability unless you plan control pollination for several generations to produce exceptional seed. Either accept that seedlings are a crapshoot and plant more trees to ensure some are good, graft the ones you think are good, or buy from someone that claims they've done what is needed to ensure superior genetics (like this: http://www.fknursery.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/home.showpage/pageID/129/index.htm). Even with those Buck's Unlimited Oak seedlings, you still could get a dud.
 
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