Something's afoot here in Texas... or at least underfoot, and it's not likely to end before election day. According to the Houston Chronicle, our oak trees are pelting us with five to ten times the normal number of acorns.
Tree experts say they don't entirely understand why, every decade or two, oak trees produce a deluge of acorns - known as a "mast" year. Like this year....Last year at this time, we were just beginning to realize the full magnitude of the drought impacts on our beloved trees. This year, as we continue to cut down those trees that our loving ministrations could not save, we have seen a resurgence of growth in those trees that did survive. Like watching time-lapse photography, we gazed, awestruck, as leaves fairly burst onto the branches in spring. Something was going on, and what we're seeing now is its latest manifestation.
...Scientists believe this year's deluge of acorns may be related to last year's drought.
"We often see increased production in mast when we are experiencing drought, especially like the one we had last year," said Matthew Weaver, a regional urban forester with the Texas A&M Forest Service. "The trees are trying to perpetuate their species so they expend energy in producing their seed."
You needn't have an interest in forestry to see that something's afoot. This is no ordinary autumn here in Texas. We're being pelted with acorns as we walk or drive around. Our yards and sidewalks are littered with them. Which begs the question: what the heck is going on?
Scientists believe there are evolutionary reasons for trees to produce bumper crops of acorns rarely rather than annually.Any natural system will struggle to regain its equilibrium when subjected to stresses. Nature not only abhors a vacuum, it gets royally pissed off when you mess its balance. You can see this phenomenon played out everywhere.
The 17-year cicadas emerge periodically, in force, because there are enough of them at one time that predators cannot possibly eat all of them.
The same logic applies to trees, Siemann said. If oaks produced just a few acorns every year, there would be enough squirrels and other seed predators to gobble all of their mast up. Instead, by saving up their nutrients for a large crop every now and then, oak trees overwhelm the ability of predators to consume all of the acorns.
Therefore, it's more efficient for trees to spike their production of acorns periodically.
Even if you're stuck at your desk in a windowless cubicle, you can see how this works. Take a piece of paper, crumple it up in a ball and toss it in the wastebasket. Check back in a few minutes, and you'll see that it's already struggling to recover its previous geometry. If a humble piece of paper can do that, imagine what can be achieved by an entire forest?
There's a powerful will to survive and to thrive, among individuals and across species. It's almost as though ecological adversity is necessary for a species to steel itself for the rigors of life, to evolve to its highest potential.
Our political system follows these same natural laws. When things reach the extreme of the political pendulum, there's always a pull back towards equilibrium. When the Tea Party seized power and wrenched the pendulum to the Right, it awakened something primal in their adherants, and in the rest of us.
Here in Texas, the Right Wing reign of error coincided with droughts and wildfires. The land was ravaged, and the damage grew by the day. Even when the fires were finally suppressed, the smoke still hung in the air for months. Millions of dead trees in our forests and neighborhoods and parks were cut down and hauled away.
The trees that remained grew tall and strong. If you looked carefully, though, you might have noticed that many of them began to lean a bit to the Left. In the summer, they loomed large, gathering strength, continuing their almost audible rate of growth. Now, they're pelting us with acorns, more acorns than many here have seen in over a decade.
This is no ordinary autumn. Those who've suppressed our workers, our poor, our elderly, our veterans, and our immigrants and plan to build on their "success" this election cycle ignore the Morse-code message of the raining acorns at their peril. They've f*cked with the wrong bunch. We've taken all we're gonna take. We're roaring back. We're turning out in unprecedented numbers. With every ballot cast, we're turning our Lone Star State more blue. This is no ordinary autumn.