A mast year


We’re having a mast year here in Bergen County, New Jersey, and, I suspect, in the wider area as well. “Mast” comes from a German word that means “forest food,” and a mast year, a phenomenon that happens every few years, is a year in which nut-bearing trees (in our area, oaks, hickories, and beeches) produce unusually large numbers of nuts. Notice it the next time you’re out walking–in some place there are so many fallen acorns that they blanket the ground entirely.


Masting results from chemical signalling among all the trees in the area (yes, plants send out chemical signals, both through the air and through their roots). It happens because, in most years, animals eat all the acorns and other nuts, so none remain to reproduce the trees. So every few years, the trees act together to produce such a large crop of nuts that the animals can’t possibly eat them all. Consequently, some will remain to germinate next spring. Next season, look for lots of seedling oak trees and a larger-than-normal chipmunk population. Isn’t nature wonderful?

Thanks to everyone who turned out for the Arboretum walk yesterday. It was a gorgeous day.



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