Magnet bur oak

Magnet bur oak in front yard

We didn’t intend to create a magnet when we planted a skinny bur oak in our front yard 13 years ago.

It created a startling experience one October evening when Marion went to the porch to check the weather. A large furry form dropped from the nearby tree and scurried away in the gathering darkness. A woodchuck? Not likely. They work the day shift. Later we caught the mystery animal in the bean of a flashlight as it returned to the magnet tree. A husky raccoon that again retreated in haste when it saw us.

Over the next several days we watched squirrels and woodchucks forage on the acorns. At dusk bucks and does with yearlings eagerly, yet watchfully, gobbled up acorns. In between, turkeys wandered by to forage. Blue jays dropped out of the tree onto the ground and carried off husky acorns to store for winter.

Why Oaks Attract Wildlife

Our October oak was a perfect magnet. While most area oaks were acorn-bare, our youthful front yard tree was loaded with them. They were huge, sweet, and free of the weevils that often consume acorns before exiting through tiny holes.

Blue jays, wild turkeys, woodchucks, raccoons, squirrels, and deer consider October acorns prime carbohydrate-loaded food. When few oaks, scattered around, bear a heavy crop, wild animals beeline to those loaded with nuts. That’s why our tree was a magnet drawing in a stream of wildlife until every acorn was consumed.

General Types of Oaks

White oak types have leaves with rounded lobes. These include white, bur, and swamp white oaks. Their big acorns are low in tannic acid and are a prized animal and human food. Most trees only bear a heavy crop every few years with acorns that sprout almost as soon as they hit the ground. If not eaten soon weevils find them.

Black oak types have leaves with pointed lobes. Their acorns are loaded with bitter tannin. Often wild animals only feast on them after nearby sweeter white oak-type acorns have all been eaten. Black oak-type acorns wait until next spring to sprout. Perhaps their tannic acid helps them remain uneaten until they sprout months after falling from the tree.

Optimal Places to Plant Oaks

When planted in an ideal location with full sun and rich soil, an oak will begin producing acorns when it’s seven to ten years old. Our front yard tree had a light crop the past few years, but when it reached its 13th year it was loaded with nuts. It was a true magnet that lured wildlife in from far and wide. We enjoyed watching many animals dine on acorns produced by a tree we planted.