It’s nuts out here. You’ve probably been hit on the head with an acorn or two in the past few days or noticed a strew of them on the sidewalk. That’s because nut-bearing trees, from oaks to hickory to black walnut trees, have gone nutso in production this fall.
This is what scientists refer to as a mast year, where a single oak tree can drop thousands of acorns. And 2023 is turning out to be “a very heavy mast year.”
Scientists can’t agree why we have mast years, though some believe they’re caused by temperature and rainfall variations. Mast years ensure the propagation of a tree species and provide food for wildlife.
A potential downside to this nutsy abundance is how it’ll affect our winter. According to farmer folklore, a heavy fall of acorns leads to a snowy and cold winter. But scientists say a mast year is more an indicator of past weather than future. One theory is that April’s exceptionally warm and dry weather provided the ideal temperature for windblown pollination.
While the jury is still out on the roots of a mast year or what it can predict, perhaps some anecdotal evidence can give snow lovers some hope: The last significant mast year was 2015 and D.C. was buried under an epic snowstorm in January 2016. Coincidence? Or, could the folklore be true? Only time will tell.