CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) – As fall begins, acorns will begin to cover the ground, and the Virginia Department of Forestry wants you to start collecting these acorns and seeds to help grow the next generation of oak, walnut and chestnut trees in the Commonwealth.

Every year, Virginians can collect and donate acorns and other seeds to their local Department of Forestry office. These seeds will be sent to the department’s Augusta Nursery, and successful seedlings will be sold to state landowners. Trees that come from donated seeds often help to reforest open areas.

According to State Forester Rob Farrell, there has been an uptick in this year’s seedling production thanks to acorn and seed donations from last year.

“We are happy to report record-setting seedling production numbers at VDOF’s Augusta Nursery this year,” Farrell said. “Thanks to additional funding provided by the General Assembly, and collection efforts by everyone across the Commonwealth last fall, we will soon have approximately 3.7 million conifer, and 2.7 million hardwood seedlings available for purchase. This represents an increase of 63 percent, or almost 2.5 million seedlings.”

This year, the department’s collection priorities have also slightly changed. The prioritized species for this year include:

  • Black Oak 
  • Black Walnut
  • Chestnut Oak
  • Chinese Chestnut
  • Northern Red Oak
  • Pin Oak
  • Shumard Oak
  • Southern Red Oak
  • Swamp Chestnut Oak
  • Swamp White Oak
  • Water Oak
  • White Oak
  • Willow Oak

Acorn collectors should drop off acorns at any Virginia Department of Forestry office by Friday, Oct. 14. To find your local office, visit the Virginia Department of Forestry website’s Find a Forester tool.

The department has also released several tips for collectors to stay safe and to ensure they are collecting the best samples. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Safety first. Stay away from roadways.
  • Do not collect on private property without permission.
  • Collection from yards, sidewalks or driveways is recommended to ensure collection of a single species. Forest collection makes it difficult to determine the tree of origin and may lead to mixing of acorn species.
  • Do not collect damaged, cracked or dried out acorns and nuts.
  • Avoid sticks, leaves, gravel and debris, but acorn caps are okay. When the caps remove easily it means the acorns are ready for harvest.
  • Place in a breathable bag, such as paper, burlap or cloth. Do not use plastic bags.
  • Use a separate bag for each species.
  • Label the bag with the collection date and species if known. If you are not sure of the species you’re collecting, include a few leaves from the tree to help nursery staff with identification.
  • Do not allow acorns to freeze, heat up or dry out.
  • Place samples in a cool area until you are ready to drop them off.

For more information about acorn collection or help identifying tree species, contact the Augusta Nursery at (540) 363-7000 or visit the Virginia Department of Forestry website.