This is my bounty of locally collected acorns and nuts so far this fall. I am a big squirrel right now, going from location to location collecting nuts from trees as I go. In the basket are Bur Oaks and Black Walnuts. The tray is holding Shagbark Hickories on the left and Ohio buckeyes on the right. The buckeyes are a first for me. I have searched for these and had a hard time finding this particular species. Yellow buckeyes are easy to find, but Ohio buckeyes are not quite as common around here.
Don't those Buckeye seeds look prickly? I was surprised at how sharp they are as I gathered them. I am planting them far from the house so that I won't step on any of these prickly landmines. I think they would make a wonderful burglar deterrent, although most burglars don't go running around barefoot in the middle of the night.
As soon as the protective husks are off they are ready to plant. I will check the nuts for signs of mold, rot or borer holes and discard any that are affected. The rest will be planted immediately so that they can go through the necessary winter stratification that will crack the seed hulls and allow germination to take place. It's especially important to get the buckeyes in the ground as soon as possible because if they dry and shrivel up the embryo inside probably won't germinate. I always plant two seeds in each hole just in case one is bad. The trick is to space them a few inches apart so that if both germinate I can remove one without risking the other's root structure.
I am lucky in that I will be young enough to watch any trees that result from these seeds grow into adolescence. My grandchildren will get to see them in their full glory. Growing trees from seed, while easy, requires patience and a vision for the future. I've always equated growing trees with a deep sense of hope.