Thursday, November 29, 2012

Acorn Trees

I absolutely love the way my southern customers for tree tubes invariably refer to the oak seedlings they are planting as "acorn trees."  (Well, for the sake of dialectic accuracy they say it more like "a-kern trees.")

Referring to oaks as acorn trees is incredibly profound, in my estimation.  It's a recognition - conscious or subconscious - of why they are planting the trees, that they truly value the fruit the trees will produce.  Granted, my customers are thinking more in terms of the food the acorn trees will produce for wildlife rather than for people, but they are a heck of a lot farther down the road of (re)thinking of acorns as food than most people.

After all, other food-producing trees are referred to by the food they produce - even black walnut and black cherry, which are generally speaking more prized for their wood than as a food source - are named in recognition of their fruit.

I need to do a little etymological research on the origins of the word oak, and since I haven't read Oak, The Frame of Civilization for at least a year that would be a good place to start (be sure to order a copy for the oak-lover in your family, just in time for the holidays!).  I seem to recall that the name oak derives more from its acorns than its wood, but I'll check on that.

Regardless, in modern English the term oak does not have a food connotation of any kind.  More's the pity. 

If oaks were commonly referred to as acorn trees I think it would change the way in which people view them; they would shift in the public consciousness from being viewed as pretty but "slow growing" trees that eventually produce useful wood, to what they should be:  A source of nourishment, The Staff of Life. (That eventually produce useful wood; I am a forester, after all.)

So let's start here and now:  I'm going to start referring to oaks as acorn trees (that being the Yankee pronunciation I was born to) whenever it won't create confusion.  Please feel free to do likewise - acorn trees or a-kern trees, it's up to you - and we'll start a movement!

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