buying acorns

hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)December 5, 2013

I also posted at the Growing from Seed forum...but am also going to try here.

I just ordered some Quercus michauxii acorns (Swamp Chestnut Oak) from Schumacher's, since Sheffield's does not have a 2013 crop yet (seems odd this late). Neither one has the 2013 Nuttall oak crop yet, which is another one I want.
Sheffield's does have some 2012 Nuttall oak seed available. Brandon7 & others here have repeatedly spoken positively about Sheffield's and their seed storage practices, so it might be worth a try.

I know acorns are hard to store, but have read multiple publications that suggest that if stored right near freezing, with a good pre-storage moisture content, that white oak acorns can be saved for about 6 months, and reds for a year or two with good viability. I would assume Sheffield's employs this type of storage.

For anyone who has tried it, do you think it might behoove me to try a sample of last year's Nuttall Oak from Sheffield's, since it's December, and it is looking increasingly likely that there won't be a 2013 crop available from either major tree seed supplier I'm aware of?

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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

I gotten seed from them a couple times now. I really do believe you would be Ok with year old seed. Plus getting packets, it's not like you are spending allot on them either. To me half the fun is experimentation and trying something new. I bought some stuff that is probable not cold hardy this year, just because it is rare and nobody else was buying the seed. Figure $7-8 wasn't going to kill me. If I were looking for acorns, I would not hesitate. JMHO.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 6:24PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I bought a few things from Sheffield's and one from Schumacher's this fall - from Sheffield's I got several Acer and also Aesculus octandra (or pavia - Yellow Buckeye) - those just arrived today.

The Yellow Buckeye has 5 sinkers and a floater, the floater seed is probably a dud but I'm letting them soak overnight before stratifying.

I did order some fresh 2013 crop Quercus michauxii from Schumacher's as well.

I emailed Sheffield's and they replied to say they store their acorns in controlled moisture cold storage. So that technically, those acorns are already stratified from being in cold storage a year.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 11:44PM
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I could be badly mistaken - and, granted, I store my acorns in the family fridge, so a lot push a taproot radicle before I get around to planting them - but I can't imagine year-old acorns still being viable - or, at least, not germinated - 12-18 months after collection.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 11:46AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Lucky, that was my first inclination, but it appears from some research that if stored right around freezing (presumably at the point where growth can't occur but the embryo itself doesn't freeze due to antifreeze properties of other chemicals within the acorn besides water) & kept in a moisture-stable environment, they will both not die and not grow.

Here is a link that might be useful: Storing White Oak Seed

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 12:25PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Here's another one.

Here is a link that might be useful: Another one

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 12:26PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Just from what I've read, they won't push a radicle if the temperature is "just right", right around freezing. Refrigerator temps of around 3-4C allow for stratification but are warm enough for root growth (but not top growth) to occur.

In fact, since I did order those fresh Q. michauxii (and far more than the number of trees I'd ever need) I'm going to experiment a bit...these are white oaks so they technically don't have a dormant period or stratification requirement. I bought a half pound (probably around 40 nuts) so I have enough to experiment with.

Here's my plan (if the spousal unit doesn't alter my plans)

1. Plant a few right in the ground outside, protected by a wire mesh cage so critters can't dig to get them
2. Put a few in Rootmaker cells in the fridge (to see if root growth and rootpruning can occur w/o top growth at refrigerator temps)
3. Start a few in Rootmaker cells indoors in a west window with some supplemental light
4. Place the rest in a sealed Ziploc bag, in the back of the bottom refrigerator drawer - it's the coldest spot in the fridge and food placed here often freezes partially. I placed a thermometer there and it runs from 31-33 degrees, right in the temp range suggested in the links I posted. Those I'll then monitor for moisture, root growth, etc and plant in Spring.

My thought is, as long as the acorns themselves arrive in a viable state, I'll get SOME trees one way or another between my 4 methods.

This post was edited by hairmetal4ever on Fri, Dec 6, 13 at 12:35

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 12:33PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I have purchased numerous types of acorns from Sheffields. Most of them were over one year old. I had great results from every single type, from the best of my recollection. This should NOT be an issue.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 1:14PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

So it looks like Sheffield's is employing the techniques that the articles suggest.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 1:18PM
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If you go one some of the individual state ex. (Oklahoma gardening or gardening in Oklahoma, or any other state the tree can grow in) and post asking about the tree seed you MAY get lucky. I got lucky with some acorns that way. Last ditch effort you know.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 8:42PM
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I have some Q.coccinea and Q.acerifolia acorns in the fridge now that I bought off of ebay. I just put them in moist sphagnum moss in ziplock bags, then put them in the veggie drawer. I check them about every two weeks for mold, and if I see any I give them a dip in some bleach water.

I have used this same method for buckeyes and chestnuts and it has worked every time.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 8:06AM
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I got some quercus prinus acorns from Sheffields today and they all have those one inch radicles. Does that mean they don't need any more cold treatment?

This post was edited by Huggorm on Fri, Dec 20, 13 at 9:11

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 9:10AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Huggorm, Q. prinus is in the White oak group - they don't need to be stratified.

Are the radicles healthy or drying out? I'm surprised they came that way from Sheffield's. I wonder if they sprouted in transit?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 9:57AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I'd plant them out now if you can. If not, you can keep them in a cool (the vegetable crisper of your frig), moist environment (in a plastic baggie with some type of sterile medium - sand, small/medium-grained perlite, paper towel, etc).

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 11:10AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Hi Huggorm,

You're going to need to plant them in pots in your climate.

I know what I'm talking about when I say this:

cut (scissors) the 1" radicle on each one to 1/4" and then into either a large container you may plant them or into individual containers. A 5-gallon container will work great. Space them every 3-4" if you choose to use large container(s).

Cutting the radicle will encourage a fibrous root system from the start. Eventually, all oaks will make a new taproot so that's none to worry over.

You cannot allow these acorns to freeze. They will send down their roots and next spring the upper growth will generate.

They don't need light, however, when spring is arriving or if you see that the acorn is actively growing above the soil, then you'll need to get them into weak light, i.e., under a fluorescent until all danger of frost has passed, or near a window for not a long period of time (a few three weeks), or take the pots outside for a few hours of morning sun and then back to a window. If you have a greenhouse, that's the perfect location. I grow oaks among other hardwoods from seeds in a heated greenhouse that's set just above freezing thru the winter.

A window in case you're wondering will promote stringy, weak growth. That's the main reason not to keep them near a window for much of any a significant time period.

The advice I gave to you regarding cutting the radicle is from my friend as well as an author, Guy Sternberg. His main field are oaks.


    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 11:25AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Gardener365 gives good advice. On another forum, I have seen folks who have been able to grow the oaks all winter under lights (with top growth) in root pruning pots, but only if they're on for a 14hr+ day or so to "fool" them into thinking its spring. If they grow above ground w/short winter days they seem to languish a bit and get lanky as they're "off schedule" - but if the long days are simulated, then they're moved outside around May, they then adjust and go dormant on a normal schedule that fall.

In nature, they send down a DEEP taproot in fall and winter, but don't usually start top growth until spring. I've read that the roots grow until it gets near freezing but, much like dormant buds on already-existing trees, they won't grow above ground until temps get around 50 or warmer for a while. Hence the idea to keep in a fridge. However, the roots can get LONG in that environment.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 11:38AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

The radical will stop growing or slow way, way down if kept in the frig's vegetable crisper. Conditions there should be, like hairmetal described, cold but not quite freezing. I prefer to either hold my acorns in these conditions or plant them out for two reasons. First, it's just a lot less work. And second, I prefer the natural root system with a taproot as deep as possible. Many people like to stress that a natural taproot is not needed, but I think of that as saying your left arm is not needed. You can live without it, but it's not the best solution.

This all changes if you are going to pot your small oaks up and grow them that way until you finally plant them. There are reasons for doing this such as if you were going to sell them, if you couldn't maintain them until they were a bit larger, etc. In that case, the fibrous root system is practically a necessity (at least if you plan to keep them potted for long).

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 12:29PM
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Thank you very much for your advice. I was surprised to see those radicals, I was gonna put them in damp soil until spring for stratification but I guess I can still do that. I will cut some of the radicals, and save some. Q. Prinus is propably not hardy here anyway, but I will give it a fair try.
I have a place where the temperature is about 40F where I can put all my seeds. I ordered some american chestnut, hickories and other seeds as well, but none else than the oak has sprouted. I guess it might have happend during shipping, it took about two weeks to get them here.

I did grow q. rubra indoors a few years ago, so I recognize that thing about 14 hours of light. Pretty special for oaks, all other plants I tried did well with just 12 hours. And I planted that red oak out in may, just as suggested above and it adjusted to normal seasons just perfect and has been outside two years now.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 1:00PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)


Q. prinus should be perfectly hardy in z6...actually to at least zone 5 IIRC.

Are you outside the US? I'm guessing since you said it took Sheffield's 2 weeks to send those seeds. I got mine in about 3 days if I remember right.

This post was edited by hairmetal4ever on Fri, Dec 20, 13 at 13:48

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 1:47PM
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Yes, I'm in Sweden, northenmost Europe. It is USDA zone 6, but the summers are short and not very warm. Good for some east US trees, but I don't know if someone has tried q. prinus.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 1:54PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

When Dax said, "You're going to need to plant them in pots in your climate," I wasn't sure why he said that and then kind of forgot he said it. Now looking back, I am wondering why. I did look at your hardiness zone rating and saw it was 6. Zone 6 is right in the middle of normal hardiness zones where Quercus prinus is found. I can't think of other climate factors that would favor pots, and I am not familiar with the climate in Sweden anyway. Now I am really wondering why pots over in-ground.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 4:57PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

If any of these Eastern North American oaks do well for you, Huggorm, then Q. prinus *should* do OK:

Quercus alba
Quercus coccinea
Quercus rubra
Quercus velutina

They all inhabit similar sites so in theory, Q. prinus should also do OK if any of these don't really know until you try!

You might have the only one in Sweden if you're successful!

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 10:58PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Those radicles by the way look a bit dried out at the tips. They should survive, but you might end up with a more fibrous root system, they will probably branch at the end of the living part of the root right before where it dried out (turned black). For later transplanting, that's a good thing.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 11:01PM
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Q. rubra thrives here and even reproduces without problem. Propably the most common american tree planted here actually, along with q. palustris. Coccinea and alba is also no problem, but q. velutina is not properly tested as far as I know. I have hopes for q. prinus, even if that species seem to require a little bit longer and warmer summer than those others.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 3:08AM
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How does your climate compare to Estonia? I ask because I sent american chestnut to a lad there, and he has grown them from seed and they have made 2 winters outside. I think he has white oaks too, I'll have to ask him.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 7:50AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Since Q. prinus grows natively at some fairly high elevations where summers are relatively cool (by eastern US standards), I think it will do OK for you.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 10:16AM
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The cimate is similar to that of Estonia, but a little bit wetter.

I have got european chestnut allready, their leafs might get hurt by late spring frost some years but I have never had any damage at all to the wood. After what I have heard, american chestnut is a tiny bit hardier, that is why I will try some of those to. Other american trees to be found around here is liriodendron tulipifera, acer macrophyllum, magnolia virginiana, carya cordiformis, robinia pseudoacasia and even some more or less hardy giant sequoia!

But I'm sorry for all off topic, I ruin this thread completely

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 11:03AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Hi Brandon,

I assumed their ground was frozen. Mistake #1. I admit.

To be clear, which I was not, these are the options:

1. keeping them in the fridge in a bit of moist (never soaking wet - squeeze all the excess water from the media you use, i.e. sand, peat moss)....... will retard growth "well enough," The closer to freezing the better things will slow down.

If a plumule (plumule = epicotyl which is the part that forms the stem) ever develops, then they/it must get into as much light as possible and right away.

2. planting them outdoors is fine (not my choice this late) as long as no plumule has developed, and that the acorns are mulched very well ...roots don't have a problem because the ground never freezes too far below about 30ð and they can take that. Roots held above ground in pots are toast if they are not protected with hay, mulch, etc- and lots of it.

In reality, and most of us as well as the poster likely understands ...... those acorns should have been planted, two months ago if in-ground.


I like my way better to clip those radicles and grow them indoors, but I'm not one to say to any person what to do with their property.

Cheers friends,


    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 11:03AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I have at this point recieved Q. michauxii from Schumacher and Q. coccinea from Sheffield's. Schumacher also confirmed they did get some Q. nutallii/texana in as well that is on its way along with a couple conifers, these should arrive this week.

The Sheffield's acorns (Q. coccinea) "looked" better than the Q. michauxii from Schumacher's - the coccineas all sunk in water, NO visible weevil damage, etc. The michauxiis looked decent and I should have overall high germination rates, but there were about 7 culls - 4 badly infested with weevils and 3 others that floated. There were even a couple weevils in the bag. This was 1/2 lb of seed.

That could either mean that Sheffield's "prescreens" their seed better, or, simply that the batch of michauxii that Schumacher's got this year was not the best it could have been.

Schumacher seems to have better prices, however, and their 80% cut Metasequoia seed seems interesting to me.

So far I'd say BOTH are good resources and worth having around if you plan on serious tree growing from seed. Customer service from both so far has been excellent.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 9:31AM
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I've had good results with seed from both Schumaker and Sheffields too. American chestnuts appear to be a bit hardier than european ones, but if you have red oaks in your area, the chestnuts will do fine. Other posters have covered your oaks. I think growing them in the house might be good too. I'm at 46 degrees, no gulf stream to warm things up, so start them in the house as soon as they push radicles. They can be hardened off easily, easier than most species, and will thicken up fast once planted in full sun. Each person has their own way to grow them, so try several and do whichever works for your situation.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 12:21PM
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