Acorns, asymmetry, and seedling variation

weberriverDecember 30, 2013

I'm growing oaks for the first time this winter (Quercus gambelii). Since it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, I didn't gather the acorns until quite late in the season, and most were already rotten. But I did manage to find two viable ones which are now growing like mad. :) I've noticed several things so far:

1. Out of all the acorns I sifted through, a good number of them had very asymmetrical cotyledons.

2. One of my seedlings (from the larger acorn) is symmetrical, while the other one was very asymmetrical and small (about half the size of the other). Yet it is the latter acorn that is currently showing the most vigor as a seedling.

3. Between the two seedlings, there's quite a bit of variation.

a. The larger symmetrical acorn was the first to sprout, yet it is slower to grow compared to its "cousin." At 20 days old, its taproot is still not visible through the clear cup that it is planted in. Its first leaves are still forming in the bud, and its stem is covered in four stipules(?), including two at the base.

b. The smaller asymmetrical acorn is three days younger than the other one, but its taproot has already outgrown its first planter, therefore necessitating that it be repotted. Its stem is about a quarter of an inch longer than the other one's, and its first true leaves are now unfolding. It also has fewer stipules(?) on the stem, only two, and does not have any at the base.

There's no real question attached, I just feel like sharing my experience so far. :) It's very interesting to watch these two individuals develop! Oh, and I should note that they come from two different Gambel oak trees -- hence why I've chosen to call them "cousins" and not "siblings."

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

When you repot your oak seedling, you can prune the taproot to encourage a more branched root system. This will help it develop more appropriately for it's temporary home in a container. I like to hold my acorns over in the frig and sow them closer to spring, or, winter sow them so that they sprout topgrowth at the appropriate time. Either way, they start growing in their final location and root pruning is not necessary. But, they should be OK in the house temporarily if you take good care of them. You'll just need to be sure to address any potbound roots when you plant your oak outside. Below is a guide that may help you in your planting decisions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting a Tree or Shrub

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 11:14PM
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Awesome, thank you, Brandon! I didn't realize that potbound roots could cause that kind of damage later on, very very good to know. As for the oak babies, they're both still doing well, plenty of leaves now.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 7:59PM
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