I know no subject more elevating, more amazing, more ready to the poetical enthusiasm, the philosophical reflection, and the moral sentiment than the works of nature. Where can we meet such variety, such beauty, such magnificence?
- James Thomson
Just across the road from us are a couple of stray Oak trees on the pavement, a few left over from an era when it demarcated someone's drive-way entrance leading to their farm. Scrounging beneath them and picking up acorns is something I really enjoy doing. This sketch was of a find a couple of summers ago and I still have the acorn but the leaf has since dried and crumbled.
The acorn may be small, but it holds a world inside. The nut consists of three parts: the cup (or cupule), a tough outer shell, and a kernel. The kernel is made up of two fat-rich seed leaves called cotyledons which enclose a tiny embryo at the pointed end of the nut. Acorns serve as an essential food for animals and in some cultures, for humans. Acorns contain large amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat, making them a favored food of many animals. It is said that Oak trees don't produce acorns until they are 50 years or older, but I doubt that, as I had an Oak in my previous garden and it produced acorns within 10 years.
Because acorns are too heavy to travel very far from their parent tree, the oak is dependent on animals such as birds and squirrels to disperse its seed. According to one source, the odds of one acorn actually growing into an oak tree are very small--less than 1 in 10,000.
Opposite the two old Oaks are a few Pine trees and I've got a bag full of cones collected from under them. They look beautiful sprayed gold or white for Christmas ornaments and I also use them as bird feeders in my garden, coating them with peanut butter and sprinkling with seeds or pushing in some minced meat for the Robin and Shrikes. I've been meaning to sketch them for quite some time now but am a bit daunted by all the different spikes I'll have to draw to scale! It's next on my list...