September 1, 2020 at 7:30 pm

Collect red oak acorns on College Green—or under any oak tree—on Sept. 19

Red oak acorns on College Green.

Red oak acorns on College Green.

From Ohio University News

Students, faculty, staff and the greater Athens community are invited to help collect red oak acorns at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, on the College Green, following socially distant and mask protocols.

Some of the College Green acorns will be refrigerated to “stratify” them for spring planting, including those from a “matriarch” red oak, the source of seedlings that OHIO President Dr. M. Duane Nellis said will be planted in recognition of the Class of 2020.

Invitation to DIY tree lovers everywhere

DIY tree lovers can also collect and stratify (necessary for red oaks) acorns on their own to help propagate oak trees, which in many eastern deciduous forests over the last 30 years have been replaced by maples. See “Scientists Show How Soil Changes May Trigger Rise of Maple Tree Population in Forests.”

There are trees dropping acorns and nuts of every type in every corner of the county and beyond, and tens of thousands of county and broader community residents with able and willing hands.

“Trees help to reduce climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, and they improve air quality, prevent soil erosion, support birds and wildlife, and clean and conserve storm water. The Arbor Day Foundation estimates that in one year an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of carbon dioxide produced by an automobile driven 26,000 miles,” says Sam Crowl, associate director of the OHIO Office of Sustainability.

Ohio University and the Athens community support the planting of trees due to the benefits trees provide to people, the planet and economic prosperity, notes Crowl. Ohio University has been designated a Tree Campus USA since 2016.

“Now you have an opportunity to promote tree growth while learning about starting red oak seedlings from the acorns falling onto the College Green,” says Dr. Kim Thompson, associate professor of instruction in Environmental & Plant Biology and Sustainable Living Hub coordinator.

“One of the attractions to the OHIO campus is the natural beauty that abounds here,” she adds.

‘Planting any tree is important’

“Planting any tree, acorn, nut or seed is important, as long as it’s not invasive,” notes Guysville resident Todd Swearingen, who has been involved in acorn collection on College Green in the past to raise saplings. “White oaks are vital to the quality and diversity of Ohio’s natural habitats, but have been in steady decline for decades due to industrial demand. This has set off the alarm bells of foresters and coopers (barrel makers) alike.”

With white oak acorns still widely prevalent and among the easiest of acorns to grow, the next several weeks are the best time for anyone and everyone to harvest and pot as many as they feel capable of caring for.

“Learning about our natural spaces and species will help inspire us to appreciate and protect them,” Thompson says. “The red oak is a beautiful landscape tree that provides habitat and food for local animal species as well as summer shade and lovely fall color. For those who are not familiar with our local trees, this event will help students learn about at least one in a very personal way, as we collect, stratify, and eventually plant the seeds. They might also learn a little about plant biology, which I think is fun.”

This is a socially distanced event, and masks are required. Bring a used plastic Ziploc bag or a bucket (if you have these items already) for this educational and service event. For more information, contact Thompson at

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