How does prolonged exposure to natural conditions affect acorn moisture and viability?This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
After placing acorns on a lab bench to dry, we saw changes in moisture content, germination, and seed biochemistry in as few as 3 days. As drying progressed, we found that irrevocable damage to membrane lipids and protein secondary structure occurred in just 5 days. However, we did not know if these experiments mimic what happens to acorns in the field. We cleared an area beneath two open-grown white oak (Quercus alba L.) trees and collected acorns after they were shed. Acorns found each morning under the trees were marked with spots of paint, different colors for each day. Five hundred acorns were marked each day, and the remaining acorns were raked from the site. The experiment continued until acorns shed from the trees dropped below 500. We found that, unlike the laboratory experiment, acorn germination showed no distinct pattern of decreasing viability. Additionally, moisture content of the acorns from both trees remained relatively high, never dropping below 35 percent. The high moisture content was no doubt in some part due to the 8 days of precipitation that occurred during each tree’s collection period. We also confirmed that insect damage was more prevalent on acorns first shed from the trees.