Mighty acorns

oakI walked the little dog a while ago. The air is cold, not so cold you can see your breath, but cold enough to wear a jacket. The leaves are changing fast and falling faster. We’re expecting frost at the end of the week. To that I say yay! I hope all the little biters freeze so we can have our evening fires and drumming with friends.
The last emergence of mosquitoes has thwarted many a social gathering in the back yard.

Many years ago we planted some bur oak trees around the murder-murderhouse to add to the huge beauties standing here more than 100 years. Needless to say, the ground is covered with acorns this time of year. They pop and crackle as cars pull in and out. Every day mourning doves patrol my driveway looking for convenient car-cracked morsels to stuff their crops with. The squirrels and chipmunks come later in the morning. The little dog’s first order of business in the morning is chasing the birds away. Her first order of business in the afternoon is chasing the squirrels and chipmunks away. I spend my time telling her not to kill things.
Terriers are exhausting.

One of the trees we planted long ago was mislabeled. It’s a bur oak like the others, but this one is native to the southern United States. It has enormous acorns, perhaps three times the size of the other acorns in my yard. I’ve been monitoring these by the day because I want to grab a few for fall decorating inside. Timing is everything. Because they’re so huge, every animal within five miles wants them. If I wait until they get brown and ripe for optimal decorating, some critter will have the tree stripped before I can even put my shoes on. I went looking today and they’re just starting to turn brown. I may have to go out with a flashlight at midnight to get a few!

In case you don’t know the taxonomy of oaks, (a.k.a the scientific nomenclature and classification of organisms), it’s taken from Latin — Quercus = Latin for oak. The name Quercus is called the Genus. From Latin (or Greek) meaning race or kind, the Genus is the family. In this case, the family of oak.

If I mention oak it probably makes some sort of image in your mind. Oaks have acorns, for one. Before I knew better, I assumed that oaks all had a particular leaf shape too. Not true. There are about 600 kinds of oaks around the world and some have very atypical leaves. In fact, some oaks look like willow trees with willow-ish leaves. That’s not all that’s different. Some have acorns so large they would fill the palm of your hand. Given there are many types of oaks. How do you tell one oak from the next?

Science has given us precise ways to label everything. First you determine the family, then you decide how it looks. Once you have the details down you name the species. (Latin for appearance). Science takes the appearance, breaks it down into Latin or Greek, and calls it a species. 

Quercus alba — White oak. Alba means white for the light grey bark it has.
Quercus macrocarpa — Bur oak. Macrocarpa means macro=large, carpa= to hold onto (like a bur) Bur oaks have fuzzy acorn caps like burs.
Quercus rubra —Red oak. Rubra meaning red.
Quercus stellata — Post oak. Stellata for star. The leaves look like a Maltese cross/star.
Quercus acerifolia — Maple leaf oak. Acer = maple, folia= leaf
Quercus ellipsoidalis — Pin oak. Ellipse= long oval. The acorns are long and pointy.

These oaks grow around the USA and are the only ones I know the scientific names of. I believe my country has close to 100 different kinds. Were you to track down the rest, you’d see how the family name stays the same and the species name gives clues to what it looks like. We can thank Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus for our hobby of slapping a name on every living thing.

Obviously Latin fascinates me. It was well out of the public school system when I was growing up, so I’ve been teaching myself. Know Latin and Greek and all the words of the western world are yours. Every writer needs words. 😀

acornI mentioned more on acorns, but time has gotten away from me this week. I will post it soon.



For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Clichés.
There are 27 entries to come.

Here’s a cliché for today:
Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while


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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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2 Responses to Mighty acorns

  1. treknray says:

    There is a small oak tree that is next to my favorite parking place at Starbucks. It just has the small acorns. Whenever I take my great granddaughter with me when there are acorns we pick them up for her collection.

    I have a problem with maple. A neighbor across the street has a a maple tree. I keep getting maples growing against my house. Most of them I can keep under control, but there is one that has been cut down that keeps growing. The trunk is about 1.5 inches in diameter.

    My favorite tree was the mulberry tree in my parents’ front yard. It had one branch that was exactly horizontal. I used to climb up into the branch to play when I was little. That and the fuel oil tank that looked like a railroad tank car. I used to pretend I was riding the rails.

    • Cute. I have one of those tank cars in my yard. We’re looking at property right now with a 400+ year-old oak and the limbs are like that. Horizontal and as big around as a horse’s middle. 🙂

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