Acorn ‘rainstorms’ mean harsh winter ahead?

Margaret Hurt
Special to The Black Mountain Times

As of a couple of weeks ago, Scott Jenkinson had already picked up six wheelbarrows of acorns in his yard.

And that was from just one tree, he said. So many acorns have been raining down from his oak tree that construction workers working on his Pine Street home in Black Mountain have joked about having to wear hard hats.

“They say it’s like walking on marbles around the yard,” Jenkinson said.

“I'm seeing a lot of potential for slipping and falling in people's yards,” said Black Mountain resident and certified arborist Will Blozan, president of Appalachian Arborists in Asheville. “Working at a home this week with white oaks, there must have been 200 acorns per square foot. It looked like they had mulched with acorns.”

Folks around Black Mountain have been speculating about whether the generous supply of acorns this fall might indicate a harsh winter on the horizon.

Whether that’s true or not, Jamie Goodwin and her students have been hearing all kinds of popping as acorns fall on the roof at Black Mountain Primary Elementary School. They’re falling like crazy, she said, though for some reason not on the school sidewalks or field.

The proliferation - or lack thereof - of acorns as it pertains to the severity of winter has long been a part of winter weather folklore, according to Brent Watts, a meteorologist with the TV station WBDJ in Roanoke, Virginia.

“The most common thought is an unusual abundance of acorns means the winter will be harsh, with cold conditions and above-normal snowfall,” he wrote on the station’s website.

“With most folklore, it may have once been a great predictor for observers a few times, then the idea stuck,” he stated “However, there’s little scientific proof to the acorn theory.”

“There is a freak abundance of acorns this year,” Blozan said. Acorns seem to be dropping early this fall because of the drought and the trees need to preserve their energy, he said.

Some years the acorn crop is lacking, but this year the crop seems abundant in the area. Whatever the amount, there is impact. The acorn seeds not only ensure future oak tree growth, they also serve as a major food source for various animal species close by, such as deer and squirrels.

Black Mountain resident Myra Gross Schoen recalls almost no acorns last fall. This year she is seeing “twice as many as the years before,” she said.

They are making for slippery walking and lots of crunching underfoot, Schoen said. “I’m not noticing many squirrels around this year to pick up the acorns,” she said. “Last year there were lots of squirrels around.”

Acorn production is a cyclical phenomenon that happens every three to five years. It takes about a year to produce a white oak acorn and two seasons to produce an acorn from a red oak tree. Acorns contain one seed and, on rare occasions, two seeds, encased in a hard shell. Mature acorns are primarily tan and usually fall during September and October, Watts wrote. Acorns that are green when they drop are premature and can indicate the oak trees are struggling with excessive heat and/or lack of rain.

“Since the acorn predictions are based on past weather, we can look back at the past few years and predict what the acorn crops may be like,” Watts wrote. “However, predicting what the weather will be like based on the acorn crops is purely for fun.”