Inside Tennessee's quest for acorns
Tennessee is turning to Vanderbilt University to boost the state's shrinking stock of white oak trees.
- Workers with the university and the state Division of Forestry recently rolled out large nets to harvest the trees' precious acorns.
Why it matters: The dwindling population of white oaks is a national problem. In Tennessee, officials are confronting a scarce supply of locally grown acorns, which are more adept at growing and thriving here.
- "Everybody's having supply chain shortages," Nathan Hoover, who oversees the state's forest management unit, tells Axios. "This is kind of similar to that — we can't find acorns."
- Hoover said white oaks are a key pillar of the state's forest-based economy, which generates billions of dollars and includes recreation, tourism, hunting and logging.
By the numbers: The state has collected acorns at Vanderbilt for a couple of years, but this year's effort was a larger undertaking.
- Hoover estimates that the state has already collected 740 pounds of white oak acorns and 375 pounds of bur oak acorns from Vanderbilt.
- That could lead to about 55,750 seedlings being distributed across Tennessee.
What's next: The acorns will go to the state's East Tennessee nursery, where they will be vetted and planted before being sold or provided to agencies across the state in about a year.
What they're saying: Vanderbilt's landscape architect James Moore says there are about 50 white oaks on campus. The trees on campus are particularly hearty: some of them top 100 feet and are more than a century old.
- "Those are the kinds of oaks that you want to be collecting and growing across the state," Moore tells Axios.
How to help: The White Oak Initiative in Tennessee — a joint effort of the state, University of Tennessee, Tennessee Forestry Association, and other groups — is collecting white oak acorns through Nov. 15.
- Contact the Tennessee Forestry Association for acorn collection kits and other details.
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