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Collecting acorns and pinecones

Gather Pinecones and Acorns

(Safety Note: Do NOT do this activity if your child has a nut allergy. Acorns are nuts and some species of pinecones contain pine nuts that can cause a reaction.)




Well, I learned some botany today, and so can you and your kids, as you take a closer look at the pinecones and acorns that fall from trees this time of year.

Botanically, acorns are true nuts. A nut is the combined (and inseparable) seed and fruit of a plant, in this case an oak tree.

If you gather acorns, it's quite easy for kids to crack them with a gentle hammer blow or squeeze of pliers or a nutcracker. Then you can peel off the thin shell and see the nut inside. These nuts, unlike many your child may have eaten, need to be prepared for eating by grinding and then rinsing out the bitter tannin they contain. Then the meal can be used like flour to give recipes a nutty flavor. This article tells explains the process from start to finish and even includes some recipes.

Pinecones have a seed on each petal. In fact, they are no more than carriers for seeds. The petals open in dry weather to release the seeds, and close in high humidity. Scientists think this may help the seeds disperse farther. To see for ourselves, we dunked the top half of an open pinecone in a glass of water, and sure enough it closed up.

You can remove the seeds and plant them to grow your own pine seedlings, but this article gives the impression that it's not a straightforward process. If anyone manages to farm their own Christmas trees this way, let me know.

More autumn nature activities

Preparing Bird Feeders for Fall
Find a New Hiking Trail
Preserving Leaves
Project Feederwatch





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