Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? March 18 2019

By Area Forester Lisa Deaton

Parasitic Plants

parasitic plants1American or eastern mistletoe, Phoradendrum leucarpum, is a common parasite of oaks and maples in the Coastal Plain of Virginia. Birds carry the sticky white mistletoe seeds from tree to tree.  The seeds sprout and their roots grow into the host tree to extract water and nutrients.parasitic plants2

In our eastern deciduous forests, winter provides a clearer view into the woods.  The deciduous leaves are gone, and we can see all of the things hidden by summertime foliage.parasitic plants3

For instance, it was quite a surprise to see this eastern redcedar tree, Juniperus virginiana, growing in a black walnut branch 20 feet above the ground (center of photo above).  This is especially unusual because black walnut, Juglans nigra, is famous for its competitive advantage of releasing a juglone chemical that is toxic to plants growing over the top of its root system.  Evidently, this branch presented the perfect sprouting conditions for an eastern redcedar berry.  Cedar berries are not sticky, but they sprout more readily after passing through the digestive tract of birds and animals.  This cedar has thrived for 4-5 years according to the landowner.parasitic plants4

The burl on this scarlet oak, Quercus coccinia, was also easy to see from a long distance away (below).  Burls are not parasites; they are wood formations in response to injuries or stress such as a virus, fungus, mold, insect or a gnarly combination of stressors. parasitic plants5


You Can Help Ensure Virginia has More Hardwoods!

The Virginia Department of Forestry needs your help to continue producing quality seedlings for Virginia landowners. Virginia-grown seed generally produces trees that will grow well in our state. Every year, homeowners from all over the state donate acorns and other seed to help us produce the next season’s crop. Seed collection is a great activity for children and adults. It’s also a wonderful way to learn more about Virginia trees. Every year, homeowners spend countless hours raking up acorns and wonder what to do with them. We have the answer… donate your acorns to the Virginia Department of Forestry! VDOF needs seeds and acorns from the following trees:

  • Black Oak
  • Black Walnut
  • Chinese Chestnut
  • Chestnut Oak
  • Live Oak
  • Northern Red Oak
  • Pin Oak
  • Sawtooth Oak
  • Southern Red Oak
  • Swamp Chestnut Oak
  • Swamp White Oak
  • White Oak
  • Willow Oak

It is easy to pick up a lot of these seeds during the months of September and October in many yards and parking lots.  When collecting the seeds, please follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Make sure the tree is correctly identified.
  2. Try to keep as much trash out as possible (sticks, leaves, gravel, etc.).
  3. It doesn’t matter if acorns still have the caps on them or not.
  4. Place the seed in a breathable sack or bag (No plastic bags please!).
  5. One type of seed should not be mixed with another (For example: white oak acorns should be in one bag and red oak acorns should be in another).
  6. Make sure the bag of seed is labeled and dated correctly.
  7. Once the seed is collected, place in a cool area (Seed will spoil if it is over heated).
  8. Bring the seed into the the nearest VDOF office no later than October 16.

Find out more and get info to help ID acorns. If you need help identifying a tree, have questions about the process or need directions please contact Joshua at 540-363-7000.