Frequently Asked Questions

How can I participate in Growing Native?
There are several ways you can get involved.  First, you can collect in your own backyard at your convenience and as the seeds fall, deliver the seeds to a drop-off site near you. Drop-off locations are active in September and October. Specific opening and closing dates vary from year to year. To help you find out whether you have native hardwood trees that are needed, check out our tree identification charts, courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Second, you can coordinate a seed collection site for a group of people in your neighborhood or at a park, school, or church near you. Or, you may join in a nearby public collection event that has already been established.

Finally, you can help us establish a new drop-off location, which you would be responsible for overseeing and monitoring once a week to let us know when it needs to be emptied.

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I want to collect in my backyard. How do I do it?
First, visit our desired tree species list to learn if the seeds from your tree are needed for Growing Native. If you are collecting from more than one type of tree, it is very important to be sure that each kind of seed is bagged separately. In other words, if you are collecting pin oak and white oak, the white oak acorns should go in a different bag than the pin oak acorns. Once you have collected your seeds, you must deliver them to your local drop-off site. Drop-off locations are active in September and October. Specific opening and closing dates vary from year to year. If you are collecting seeds before then, be sure to store them in a cool, dry place until you deliver them to the drop-off.

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What if I can't figure out what type of tree I have?
We would be happy to help you properly identify any trees you feel may produce a good crop of acorns or seeds. We encourage you to use the tree identification charts courtesy of Virginia Tech's Forestry Department and get to know your trees. If you are having trouble contact us and we will arrange someone to identify the trees. We are especially interested in any of the oak species.

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How do I find out if my acorns are healthy?
Not all seeds are healthy and able to produce a new tree. Those that are healthy are called "viable." You can help make Growing Native a success by doing a few simple tests to ensure that the seeds you have collected are good.

First, if you find that all or most of the acorns still have their caps on and do not easily fall off the chances are they are not viable. The seeds may have been blown off the tree in a windstorm or nipped off by a squirrel before they had a chance to mature.

Next, if the cap is off take a handful of acorns and put them in a cup or bucket of water. If most or all of the acorns float, they are probably not viable and you should wait a few more days to a week and try this test again with freshly fallen seeds. If most of them sink, they probably are viable, and you should go ahead and collect them. Do not float test all of your acorns, because float testing may cause them to sprout earlier than they should.

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Do I just throw the acorns and seeds in a bag?
No. Acorns need very little special treatment, but we need to ensure that they don't dry out prior to delivery to the nurseries. The best bags to use are dry weave or burlap bags. These bags are readily available at local hardware stores. We also supply our registered groups and provide some bags at drop-off sites and at the weekend community events we attend throughout October. Plastic shopping bags are not appropriate as they heat up the seeds and facilitate rot. Additionally, it is VERY important to be sure that each kind of seed is bagged separately. In other words, if you are collecting pin oak and white oak, the white oak acorns should go in a different bag than the pin oak acorns.

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I would like to sponsor a site; how do I do that?
We provide groups with identification charts, bags and other collection material, but your sponsorship can help defray some of the costs of these materials and earn you recognition as a good neighbor. Just contact the Growing Native Project Coordinator at (301) 608-1188 x204, for information.

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Do I have to find my own trees to collect from?
We have arranged for a number of public sites from which to collect seeds and acorns. Some of these sites are open to the public for collection throughout October. Take a look at the map to find your nearest approved public collection site.

We hope that you will take this opportunity to get to know the trees in your neighborhood.Tree identification charts are available for download to help you determine what types of trees are in your local area.

Other sites that might be willing to allow acorn collection are schoolyards, churches, golf courses, and state and local park systems. Note that the National Park Service does not allow acorn collection on any federal park property without specific permission. The exception will be parts of George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, because of a special partnership with Growing Native. They will host a few public collection events on their property each year.

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Do I need permission to collect acorns from homes and properties around my neighborhood?
Yes! It is extremely important that you seek out and receive permission from the owners of the properties on which you want to collect acorns. We have fliers and other hand-outs about Growing Native that you can give to homeowners and other property owners, which will inform them about the project and why their participation and their permission would be so helpful. Contact us if you need promotional materials.

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Why are these seeds so important? Does collecting a few acorns really make a difference?
You bet! Each year more than 15,000 pounds are collected by volunteers and delivered to the state nurseries. Every year, your state foresters are required to meet quotas of seeds to assist the nurseries in producing the needed stock for restoration and reforestation purposes. By generating a volunteer network to provide the seeds, we are helping to free foresters to focus on helping farmers and others who are working to protect our landscapes and waterways.

The implementation of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) has created a huge demand for hardwood seedlings. CREP provides resources for private landowners through rental payments and cost-share funds to restore riparian areas and wetlands. Through this program, more than $400 million nationwide will be available to private landowners over the next 10 to 15 years for riparian buffer and wetland restoration, but it is not enough. Higher seed prices and fewer state dollars makes Growing Native's contribution and your contributions essential to healthy forests and healthy streams.

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