On a sunny autumn day, dozens of folks turned out for our first ever, Acorn Festival. We greeted visitors with cider, squirrel shaped cookies, and doughnuts. There were various activities for children in the park. In the Children’s Arboretum we planted acorns. First they chose an acorn. either chestnut, red, white, sawtooth, black, or scarlet oak. We taught the children to drop an acorn in a bucket of water. If it floats, it’s rotten…if it sinks, it’s healthy. Acorns from the white oak family are ready to grow immediately and some of those acorns had roots already emerging from the nut. The red oak family requires stratification (over-wintering) before they emerge in the spring. The acorns were placed in small biodegradable bags in our planting beds. Our beds will be ready for our spring tree planting event in April. Bill Flemer provided oak seedlings and there were other varieties for children to adopt -a-tree to take home and care for.
Outside the Children’s Arboretum several more activities took place. Janet Sheppard sewed charming acorn toss pillows for the children to play with. They had a blast playing this game! Next to the acorn toss, a sensory box containing soil and cups gave the children a chance to get their hands dirty making mud-pies. Another hands-on activity involved small rounds of tree trunks Andy Sutphin cut and volunteers painted with chalkboard paint. Kids drew on them with chalk using their imagination and were able to take them home.
Bonnie Walker spread a blanket on the ground for story-time, reading books such as, Don Freeman’s Earl the Squirrel, which delighted the children.
Out and about in the Arboretum, we provided a map of oaks growing in the park. We tied ribbons to the trees so the children could find them. This was a great way to see how large oaks can grow. Some of the trees date from over a hundred years ago!
As we continue to develop programming in the Children’s Arboretum, we strive to bring families to the park to learn and play. It is proving to be a wonderful way to engage with the community and bring more visitors – of all ages – to the park.
Thanks to all who helped out with the Acorn Festival:
Becca Flemer, Evie, Lucia, Gianna and Isabella Timberlake, Ana Clemente, Emily Kleaver, Helena Bienstock, Annette Merle-Smith, Andy Sutphin, Janet Sheppard, Jennifer Saltman, Bonnie Walker, Karen Reed, Emily Reeves, Tina Berggen and Patty Sue Beach, high school volunteers: Sam Tabeart and Mats Eyckman, Lilly Krauss, Bill Flemer, Pam Machold, Welmoet Van Kammen.
Willow oak (Quercus phellos) is a large deciduous tree easily distinguished by its leaves which are very similar to certain willows (Salix). Leaves are very narrow with a short stalk, wavy along the margins (edges) and appear very willow-like. Leaves stand out stiffly all around very slender twigs. Bark of mature trunks is relatively smooth with faint ridges. Acorns are small (1/2” long) about ¼ enclosed by cup. ( inv. (690, 484, 635, 164)
The black oak (Quercus velutina) has typical oak-shaped leaves with 5- to 7-inch toothed lobes separated by U-shaped notches between the lobes. In general, the leaves are a glossy dark green on top and slightly orange-tinged beneath. Bark of mature trees is characteristically dark, grayish and broken horizontally into irregular rectangular blocks. The bark contains a unique yellow pigment which was previously used as a dye for cloth. Acorns have a large cap that covers over half of the seed. The black oak is native to North America. (inv. 207 285 311 351 366)
Red oak (Quercus rubra) is a medium to large tree with a round symmetrical crown. Leaves are alternate, tapered, pointed, usually with shallow lobes, and bright red in fall. The leaf stalk is often red. Twigs and buds are reddish. Young bark is smooth and dark grayish. With age, mature bark forms long, board, smooth ridges and shallow fissures. Acorns have shallow, tightly scaled cups. Like all oaks many leaves are retained during the winter. Quercus is the Latin name for “oak”. (inv. 506 18 29 56 73 179 306 338 396 415 422 449 460 474 516 694)
The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), a native to China, India, and Vietnam, has been discovered in NJ. This easily recognizable bug is a major threat to fruit and hardwood trees including willows, maples, poplars, tulip poplars, birch and ash. It feeds on leaves and bark. Mercer County is currently under quarantine and Department of Agriculture officials are asking residents to email pictures of spotted lanternflies to SLFfirstname.lastname@example.org or call the New Jersey Spotted Lanternfly Hotline at 1-833-223-2840.
As part of a large conservation project in 1955 mentioned in the Princeton Herald (January 11, 1956), the girl scouts planted 1000 daffodils and another 1000 bulbs including wood hyacinths, chionadoxa, and crocuses. The daffodils and crocuses are still blooming in the park every year.
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