The oak species (Quercus) ranges from trees that grow only as tall as 20 or 30 feet to others stretching 100 feet into the sky. The fruit of the tree, the acorn, is devoured by humans, animals, insects and birds alike. The tree typically demands a significant amount of time before it produces the nut.
More than 100 species of oak trees exist, so the time frame it requires for an oak to reach maturity to bear acorns depends on the specific species in question. However, the majority of oaks require at least 20 years before they are capable of producing an acorn. Peak production typically occurs as the oak grows to an age of between 50 and 80 years old, while most oaks begin to taper off production of the acorn once they have survived for more than eight decades.
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Determining the proper species for planting in a particular site is vital to establishing a healthy tree and seeing a regular, successful crop of acorns. Species such as the willow oak prefer wet, bottomland soils while others such as the live oak thrive in dry, upland soils. Still others, like the post oak or water oak, grow nicely in either wet or dry earth. Seedlings often require between one and three years to fully establish; homeowners and landscapers will often see the seedling die to the ground one year, then regenerate with new shoots the following season.
Oaks typically grow lethargically when they are young, especially if the tree is planted in a shaded area. Lack of full sunshine can increase the number of years required before an oak begins to offer acorns. An ideal environment for a young oak is an opening in the canopy above the tree of at least 50 feet in width to allow significant sunshine to the tree. Due to a relatively low success rate in achieving establishment, the University of Florida Extension recommends planting at least five oak seedlings for every oak tree desired in a setting.
The sawtooth oak (Quercus acutissima), a species native to Asia, tends to produce acorns at a younger age than other oak species. However, the sawtooth oak only offers acorns for a short period of time, so growers interested in a regular supply of the nut should plant a variety of oak trees. Regardless of the species, crop production varies from year to year as the oak tree regenerates the energy and nutrition it has expended on growing the acorns.