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What Can an Acorn Grub Teach Us About Trees?

There is something both exciting and terrifying about watching an acorn grub wiggle its way out of an acorn. (If you haven’t had a chance to see this small wonder, blogger Carol Doeringer has posted a video in this blog entry). The first time students see an acorn grub they often scream. However, after I reassure them from this entry point, it’s easy to get the kids thinking about all the benefits native trees provide to ecosystems and to people.

In this talk put on by the OSU Bee Lab, famed entomologist and conservationist Doug Tallamy shares about the many benefits of native oaks described in his book The Nature of Oaks. One such benefit is that native oaks support more insect activity, including those squirmy little grubs. The insects then feed more birds and the benefits ripple out through the ecosystem.

If you have ever felt a big drop of water fall from a tree onto your head well after the rain has stopped, you have witnessed another benefit of trees: Trees slow rainwater down. This gives water a chance to absorb into the soil where it fell, rather than rushing across the surface gathering pollutants as it goes. That's how trees ease the burden on our stormwater infrastructure.

These are just some of the benefits that I have been discussing with students as part of our Native Urban Tree Starters (NUTS) program this fall. We have had a great response to the NUTS program this year, sharing our presentations with over 300 students from 7 schools and 1 homeschool co-operative. Another 3 schools are doing the program more independently. Each of these students had the chance to gather tree seeds and stratify them. By the end of the year, they will each have started a seedling that will one day expand our urban tree canopy and protect our waterways. If they were lucky, they also got to see their first acorn grub and learn everything they can teach us about the benefits of native trees!

Blog author: Tim Becker, Education Program Specialist

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