Harvesting Tree Nuts - Early Fall - September 2022

I've long been fascinated by the idea of a backyard tree nursery.  On a small scale, of course.  But, something that I could tend-to in terms of planting and growing trees from seed over the course of a number of seasons.  I've made no secret of trying to coax myself into accomplishing some 'seasonal projects' like compost, dividing plants and even planting native trees.  And, I've had a VERY limited look at success when it comes to nursing trees to life from seed:  a tray of Kentucky Coffee Tree seedlings from 2021.  I also have seemingly grown some Catalpa trees from seed in a wine barrel planter.  

Over the past few weeks, I've begun to think about (and watch YouTube videos) about collecting tree seeds with the goal of storing, stratifying and eventually germinating and planting in containers to grow.  During one of my walks around town, I started to look at which trees were throwing off acorns and nuts and started to pick some up off the ground.  My thought here is to pick the nuts up and bring them home.  Once I test for viability (via the float test), figure out how to store and stratify them in the fridge (current thinking:  a plastic container with wet sand).

This is seemingly the time to grab the acorns - before the critters and/or weevils get to them.   First up, a couple of Chinquapin Oak acorns.  These were green when I picked them up.  See below for the pair of smallish acorns (still with their caps) and the leaf:

Next up is the Bur Oak.  The shaggy or fringed acorn cap plus the rounded tips on the leaf are the signs of the Bur Oak.  These are also green, but larger than the Chinquapin acorns above.

Next up is a rare (to me) nut tree:  the Illinois Pecan tree.  Or...Carya illinoinensis.  Yeah...there's an "Illinois Pecan" tree.  News to me.  It is sometimes called the hardy pecan.  It is a member of the Hickory family.  The tree that this pecan nut was on had just a few nuts and was a small tree.  Pretty sure this isn't best practice, but I pulled this pecan off the tree before the critters could get to it.

I also found a Chestnut tree.  See the leaves below.    Horse Chestnut, I think.

This green and slightly spikey nut was laying on the ground. I don't think it is fully developed and very likely needed more tree-time, but I grabbed it anyway.

And the last tree seed that I saw on this trip was the Bald Cypress.  Yeah...not a 'nut', but a set of circular, green cones.  See below for a few of them on the tree:

I ended up yanking five of them off the tree.  See below for the five Bald Cypress cones and the under-developed horse chestnut.  I went on YouTube and figured out that these need to dry out and then you can shake the seed out of them.  Does that 'drying out' have to happen on the tree?  I'm not sure.  But, for now, I have these five sitting in a little container on my desk to see if they'll open up.

I'd like to bring home a few nuts from Wisconsin to try to clone the large Bur Oak that is down by the lake.  And, I'll try to grab a few more acorns from my walks in the coming weeks.  And, of course the Black Walnuts from our backyard.  Then, I'll put them in a big container (as I said...likely with wet sand) and try to cold stratify them all over the Winter.  Come Spring?  I'll see if any of them have started to open and plant them in proper containers.  

A native tree nursery starts with just one seedling, right?  


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