Inside Tennessee’s quest for acorns

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Tennessee looks to Vanderbilt University to increase the state’s declining white oak stock.

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Why is this important: The decline in the white oak population is a national problem. In Tennessee, authorities are facing a shortage of locally grown acorns, which are more apt to grow and thrive here.

  • “Everyone has shortages in the supply chain,” Nathan Hoover, who oversees the state’s forest management unit, told Axios. “It’s a bit similar to that – we can’t find any acorns.”

  • Hoover said white oaks are a key pillar of the state’s forest economy, which generates billions of dollars and includes recreation, tourism, hunting and logging.

In numbers : The state collected acorns at Vanderbilt for a few years, but this year’s effort was a bigger undertaking.

  • Hoover estimates that the state has already collected 740 pounds of white oak acorns and 375 pounds of Vanderbilt bur oak acorns.

  • This could lead to the distribution of approximately 55,750 plants in Tennessee.

And after: The acorns will go to the Tennessee State Nursery, where they will be vetted and planted before being sold or supplied to agencies across the state in about a year.

What they say : Vanderbilt landscape architect James Moore says there are about 50 white oaks on campus. The trees on campus are particularly hardy: some of them peak at 100 feet and are over a century old.

How to help: The White Oak Initiative in Tennessee – a joint effort of the state, the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Forestry Association and other groups – collecting acorns from white oak until November 15th.

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