Besides the sound of crunching leaves, the pitter-patter of acorns falling onto the sidewalk is another iconic rhythm of autumn. We see squirrels run off with them, but what else do we know about this “fruit of the oak tree”?
With a little help from Learning Resources’ Alphabet Acorns Activity set, let’s explore the acorn and its many layers.
What is an acorn?
The acorn is indeed a nut, and is the fruit of the oak tree. Only oak trees produce acorns. One acorn contains a single seed, and is enclosed in a tough, almost leathery shell. Depending on the species of oak tree, it can take six to 24 months to mature and drop. There are 90 species of oaks in North America alone.
Why does it fall from the tree?
Oak trees have “boom” and “bust” years when it comes to their acorn drop. In a bust year, oak trees produce just enough acorns for wildlife to eat, but it doesn’t allow for any new, baby trees. Boom years are called masting, and those can happen every three, or five, or six years. This is when the oak trees drop a lot more nuts – more than the animals can eat – in the hopes of making more trees.
Who eats acorns?
Acorns: not just for squirrels. Acorns are some of the most important sustenance for wildlife out there. Deer, chipmunks, wild turkeys, crows, rabbits, opossums, blue jays, quail, raccoons and wood ducks are all acorn eaters. Can you believe more than 100 vertebrate species feast on that nutty treat? But keep acorns away from horses – they have been proven toxic!
Can you eat an acorn?
Acorns are high in fats and carbohydrates. They are very bitter, and taste woody and earthy. They contain lots of tannins, which can make your insides go haywire, or maybe even turn toxic. In a nutshell, it’s probably not a great idea to eat acorns all around.
But as an interesting side note, there is no scientific evidence that those with a tree nut allergy can have a reaction to an acorn by simply holding it!
Fun fall acorn activity
Gather a few acorns as you are out strolling. What color is the outside? Green? Brown? Gently tap a hammer (adults only) to crack one open. What do you see inside? What does it smell like?
After exploring a real acorn, it was time to crack open Learning Resources’ Alphabet Acorn Activity Set!
Awesome! First, we spill out the little objects and identify what they are. Mission number one is to match up the objects with the letter sound on the outside of the acorn.
Surprise! The acorns themselves open and you can pop the objects inside. The colors correspond with the letters. Great color and letter recognition activity!
Also, the top of each acorn is the letter in lowercase, which this little one immediately noticed.
The next hour was spent opening and closing the Alphabet Acorns, quizzing Mom, and even creating some words.
Happy fall and happy acorn hunting!
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