Unusual Acorns

With all the strong winds recently we’ve had hundreds of acorns down. Many end up in the road by the woodland belts at the edge of the farm (making collecting them for planting very easy) but we’ve also been finding plenty of unusual acorns of all peculiar shapes and sizes in the woods and ditches.

oak gallsWe’ve two kinds of indigenous oaks at The Woodland Farm – Pedunculate or English oak (quercus robur) and Sessile or Welsh Oak (quercus patraea) – the national tree of Wales with its furry-burred stalk-less acorns. Where both species of oak grow close to each other they also hybridise and we’ve already noticed particular trees displaying a combination of features.

All oak trees host a huge array of wildlife including some 284 different insect species (compared with e.g. Sycamore supporting just 15) Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust  Oaks also make great habitat for bats, small birds, prey birds like owls and small mammals. One of the most notable insects is the Knopper gall wasp Andricus quercuscalicis. Laying its eggs in the acorn the grub-like larvae of the wasp produce these strange folded galls which can be red, green or brown in colour. When the females emerge they go on to lay more eggs on turkey-oak catkins from which both male and female wasps then emerge to mate. Complicated eh!?

We’re still fairly new to insect identification – but very luckily our friend Mr Beekeeper Boulton with his amazing insect and bee pictures is helping us observe and learn. Thanks Stephen!

The Woodland Farm – September 2013