Oaks and Acorns

I know I am not supposed to imbue trees with personalities and yet …

the forests where I grew up were tough and scrappy: mostly aspen, pine and spruce. The boreal forest was all about survival. The trees of the west coast were ancient mystical beings. Hemlock and cedar wrapped in mossy ghosts and misty dragons.

As far as I can tell there are no forests in or near Austin but I have come to appreciate the drama of a savannah landscape. It takes a lot of personal power for a tree to grow strong and tall here. The ones that survive tend to be solitary and magnificent — the centre or subject of a composition.

I don’t think I ever saw an actual oak tree when I was growing up. Oaks lived in imagination land. Sherwood Forest? Probably oak trees. Druids gathering mistletoe? Oak trees. The fairies and anthropomorphic animals of a million cheap picture books all seemed to live in oak forests. If they couldn’t find a match box, they made coracles from acorn tops and bobbed down creeks to seek adventure and the truth of themselves. Oak trees were the stuff of dreams and stories.


I didn’t realize that in reality there were so many kinds of oak trees. Texas A & M’s helpful site about trees lists 15 kinds. Even with their guide I am not sure of the type of oak tree living in our backyard. I think it is a post oak. Whatever name it goes by it is a wildlife favourite. This is the tree where I always find birds or lizards foraging and resting. I have even seen squirrels taking naps on the branches. It isn’t at the centre of my property but it functions like an axis mundi.

This summer I have enjoyed watching the development of some bur oak acorns growing nearby. This one looks like a lion’s mane or maybe a monk’s tonsure.

burr oak
bur oak acorn (Quercus macrocarpa)

I like the tidy woven cap of this one.

burr oak acorn
burr oak acorn (Quercus macrocarpa)

And then there are the live oaks of Austin … they just sing of expansiveness and hospitality to me. Arms wide open: safe and free enough to just stretch out and take up as much space as they want. My son never needed much encouragement to scramble up and into their welcoming limbs.


21 thoughts on “Oaks and Acorns

  1. How can one not imagine trees having personalities! Oaks and acorns are magical…I used to love to make little “nature dolls” out of sticks and leave with acorns for heads when I was a child. San Diego doesn’t have many oaks but the mountains surrounding it has a mixture of oaks and pines. Houston is full of so many different kinds of oaks and the Burr oaks are one of my favorite. Your pictures are great, love the one with the tidy fringe cap. When we were designing our logo I knew I wanted a tree of life kind of symbol and then the acorn. Happy Autumn!


    1. Thank you, Laurin. Happy autumn in return =)
      I have traveled through that area near San Diego. so so so beautiful. What a great place to grow up.


  2. What amazing photos. I love your lion’ s mane acorn. Here oaks are the oldest broad leaf trees we have, with many living hundreds of years. For instance The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest is said to be 800 years old. Large oaks were often used as Parish boundary markers.
    The worrying thing is that a new disease, Acute Oak Decline is attacking mature oaks, specially here in Suffolk. And this at a time when our Ash trees are under threat from disease too. Elm trees have disappeared. One has to wonder if the future will be treeless, as pathogens attack one tree species after another.


    1. Sherwood Forest. sigh. I would love to see what an oak forest looks like. That scares me, too. A world without trees … that is unthinkable.


  3. Oaks are amazing in their stature and strength. Most common here are red and white oaks, although white are slow-growing and still recovering from several hundred years of deforestation. Majestic is definitely how I would describe them when mature.
    Your burr oaks are so attractive!


  4. Oak trees in TX are some of the most gorgeous and varied…your pictures are amazing. Oaks can host hundreds of different critters and are said to be the best plant in the landscape for the ecosystem.


    1. Thanks, Donna. They really are wildlife magnets. Though we have about a dozen pecan trees it is the one oak that seems to draw the most attention.


  5. When my daughter was much younger she used to imagine oak trees sighing and stretching out those long lower branches, saying “I just am going to rest my arms for a little while, right….here….”.

    I have a live oak right across from my kitchen window with a birdbath below and there is a constant parade of activity up and down the trunk and branches all day long. Squirrels, birds, anoles, raccoons, even the occasional neighbor cat all take a turn. The way the squirrels stretch out languidly against the larger limbs in summer reminds me those trees are cool to the touch as well as offering the sanctity of shade from the sun. They are indeed worthy of all our admiration!


  6. Wonderful post Debra and beautiful photographs too, if I ever have the space I would love to own my own Oak tree, there are American Oaks in our local church yard that look spectacular in the Autumn.


  7. Those photos are scrumptious! I like your anthropomorphizing of the trees–the descriptions fit beautifully, especially the single, strong trees which grow in the middle of nowhere. And it is remarkable what lives in a tree–mine are red oaks–always alive with critters.


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