What Are Those Furry, Wormlike, Pollen-y Things Falling From Your Oak Tree?

Trees are so cool, and they often surprise us. This year, for example, the red oaks, live oaks, bur oaks, Mexican white oaks, Lacey oaks, and most other oaks have given us huge flower production. Why?The yellowish-beige, wormlike danglers that are by now mostly on the ground are called catkins, more technically known as aments. They are the male flower parts. Each of the little bumps on these catkins is a male flower consisting of a bract (a highly modified leaf), a lobed calyx and some pollen-producing stamens. I'm sure you have noticed the yellow pollen all over the place. Once the stamens have released their pollen, the entire catkins fall from the tree. The female flowers are much smaller, in fact hardly viable. They appear on new growth and are the future acorns. The amount of acorn production in the fall depends on the quantity of the flowers and the quality of the pollination. Wind is a good thing for pollination, and constant rain is a bad thing. So it looks like we can expect a big acorn crop again this fall.  Continue reading...

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