January–February 2023

Young Naturalists

Minnesota’s Mighty Oaks

Oak trees are good for wild places, wildlife, and people. Get to know our acorn makers better.

Tom Carpenter

Have you ever held an acorn in your hand?

These little brown nuts grow on oak trees. They have a hard, smooth shell with a fuzzy or knobby cap on top. When they drop to the ground in late summer and early fall, acorns become important food for animals from squirrels to birds to deer and bears.

While most acorns end up as food for wildlife, a very small number of them do something remarkable: grow into oak trees. A lucky few acorns drop—or are buried and never retrieved by squirrels—in a spot where conditions are just right for growing. There, a new oak tree sprouts and gets its start as a sapling that may one day grow into a tree.

Because oak trees can have very long lives, often more than 100 years, an acorn that falls and sprouts today may be providing food for wildlife—and shade and beauty for people—for many decades to come! 

Minnesota’s oak trees are with us all seasons of the year. They stand tall and strong against the elements. They make our wild places more beautiful. They offer both habitat and food for wildlife. Let’s get to know Minnesota’s oaks better.

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