Acornucopia: Call for acorns in Virginia leads to record haul

Jim McGlone, an urban forest conservationist with the Virginia Department of Forestry, said he filled up his Ford Explorer four times with the record-setting acorn haul. (Courtesy Jim McGlone)

When officials in Virginia called on residents to gather acorns and donate them to the state nursery earlier this fall, you could say people went a little nuts.

An estimated 3,500 pounds of acorns — nearly 2 tons — were dropped off at the Virginia Department of Forestry offices in about a month’s time, according to Jim McGlone, an urban forest conservationist with the department.

That’s a record haul, said McGlone, who has worked for the department since 2006.

“I got more calls this year than I have ever gotten before,” he said.

The department is storing the nuts for now, but they’ll make their way to a state nursery in Augusta County, Virginia, where they’ll be planted and then eventually used to help grow new forests.

McGlone said the hardwood trees grown from the donated acorns are also provided to local conservation groups.

So, what was behind this year’s record-breaking haul?

Many people seemed to take notice after WTOP reported on the department’s call for donations in September, McGlone said. Social nut-working, ahem, also helped.

“A lot of the calls I got were from people who saw it on the WTOP Facebook page,” he said.

Nutwithstanding, erm — notwithstanding the role of local news, Mother Nature also played a role.

“It was what we call a masting year,” McGlone said. “Oaks tend to go through cycles where some years they produce a lot of nuts, and some years they don’t produce many at all. And this happened to be an up year, so it was easy for people to collect the nuts.”

The acorn donation program also turned into an “opportu-nutty” for impromptu science lessons. McGlone said he received a lot of calls from teachers who were collecting the nuts with their students.

It turns out collecting acorns lines up with Virginia’s standardized teaching curriculum called Standards of Learning, or SOLs. There’s a whole section on Virginia’s nut-ural resources.

“One school, actually the whole fourth grade class, brought a couple of boxes of nuts,” McGlone said.

If you wanted to donate acorns and missed the cutoff period this year, nut to fear: The department takes donated acorns every late summer and early fall.

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