NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Acorns falling across Vanderbilt University have become a part of a new partnership and important project aimed at replacing Tennessee’s lost Oak trees.

Nathan Hoover, with the Tennessee Division of Forestry, says about 70% of Tennessee forests are made up of Oak and Hickory, and we’re losing them fast. He added that urbanization, even farming threatens our tree population, especially White Oak, which is a tree that benefits a host of wildlife and produces plenty of acorns.

While campus squirrels are busy storing their fair share, thousands more are getting caught in nets on the Peabody College Campus at Vanderbilt where there are dozens of White Oaks – some 100 years old.

When James Moore was hired on as Vanderbilt’s landscape architect, he never thought he’d be picking up acorns.

“That was not first on my list,” Moore said, laughing.

Vanderbilt alone has collected 375 pounds of Bur Oak and 740 pounds of White Oak acorns. After sorting, planting, and growing that will equate to approximately 55,750 seedlings.

“Our campus is surrounded by an increasingly urbanized area, and that’s losing its tree canopy because of development,” Moore said.

“Those acorns are getting raked up, and they’re sent to our East Tennessee Nursery in Delano, Tennessee. They’re going to be reared, sorted, planted, and grown.” Hoover said. “Then become seedlings sold out to the rest of Tennessee and planted everywhere.”

He added the trees are desperately needed for wildlife, flood zones, flood and wildfire mitigation.

The Division’s East Tennessee Nursery near Delano offers a variety of tree and shrub seedlings for reforestation, wildlife habitat enhancement, and erosion control, as well as other conservation-oriented purposes.

Seedlings grown by the Division of Forestry help supply the raw materials needed to support Tennessee’s forest products industry that in 2015 represented a $24.3 billion dollar economic engine providing over 101,000 jobs across the state. 

TDF is asking for local acorns from across the state.

If you’d like to participate in collecting acorns you are being asked to contact the East Tennessee nursery at 877-868-7337 or click on this link for more information.