Well, here it is the middle of autumn and the trees and shrubs of forest and field are in the midst of one of the most fruitful autumns in many years. Oaks, both red and white, are dropping acorns. Although the oaks had a larger crop of acorns last year, in some areas walking in the woods is like walking on ball bearings as the acorns littering the ground roll underfoot.
The chipmunks, blue jays and squirrels are busy squirreling away their winter food supply –
Even the beech trees have produced one of their infrequent crops of seed –
Grapevines are sagging under the weight of their abundant crop that will feed ruffed grouse, fox, songbirds and wild turkeys –
Everywhere we go the apple trees, both cultivated and wild are laden with fruit, fruit that in some cases is heavy enough to break the trees’ limbs.
There are apples of every size and color, some pretty enough to grace the shelf of a grocery store -
Some misshapen, discolored and covered with blemishes -
The appearance of the apples doesn’t matter to the wildlife that feeds heavily on apples. The raccoons munch away –
Gray fox may be carnivores, but they eat apples too –
As soon as the apples started to fall the white-tailed deer began cleaning up the fruit that fell from the trees –
One of my camera traps captured a sequence of a young buck devouring two apples –
Over broad areas, trees of the same species typically produce bumper crops of seed at the same time, often on a three to seven year cycle. The question that is often asked is how trees coordinate their seed production over wide portions of their range. It seems that temperature and available moisture are major factors coupled with the fact that heavy seed production severely depletes a tree’s reserves such that several years are required for those reserves to be rebuilt sufficiently to allow significant seed production again.
This cyclic seed production also serves another purpose – if seed or fruit production was consistent from year to year, seed predators (weevils, moths, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, turkeys, deer, bear) could build populations large enough to consume all the seed every year. With cycles of scarcity and abundance, there may not be enough seed predators to consume all the seed produced in good years. And so, some seed survives to germinate and grow.