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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Oak Trees in Illinois Should Stay in Illinois

Q. I picked up 10 acorns that were laying on the ground in Illinois. If I were to plant these, would the acorns germinate and produce an oak tree? What are the chances it will survive in the desert climate?

A. There are about twenty different kinds of oaks native to Illinois. Two of the more common oaks are northern Red Oak and White Oak. Both of these oaks are not native to the Southwest and you will have trouble growing them here as they get older.
A row of live oaks, probably 'Heritage' southern Live Oak as a street tree planting in Las Vegas, Nevada.But there is a native oak, gamble Oak, which could be planted and used here. A better choice than importing oaks from northern states.

           We have oaks native to the Southwest and you are better off planting those than bringing some from Illinois. But you could have fun with them for a while.
            If you found acorns on the ground, then most likely the seed inside the acorn is mature. However, the seed may not be “alive”. Put them in a bowl of water and use the ones that sink and discard the ones that float.
           Plant them on the north or east side of a building. Mix compost 50/50 with native soil in an area 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Plant the acorns on their side in this amended soil, about 1 inch deep, in mid-November. If the winter is cold enough, the seed inside the acorn will grow when it warms in the spring.
           If you missed this November window, put them in a plastic bag with a moist sponge in the refrigerator. Take them out after two months and then plant them in the same way.
           Oaks have a very strong taproot. If you move them from this spot, do it when they are very small. They do not move easily to new locations once they establish a taproot. Otherwise, remove extra seedlings and grow the strongest ones the same way you would grow any other landscape tree.

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