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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Forest Mast

Mast, according to is, "the fruit of forest trees, such as beech, oak, etc, used as food for pigs."  In other words, nuts.  I think that is an interesting definition since there aren't too many places in the United States that still have pigs foraging through the woods.
We generally use mast to describe the nuts available to forest animals such as deer and squirrel.  I have also heard "mast" used to cover all available wild fruit, including seeds and berries.
Whichever definition you use, the mast is plentiful in the forests this year.
For us the large amount of available food in the woods means several things.  It means that we don't see the deer as much as we usually do this time of year.
 Here in the Mid-Ohio Valley they are sticking to the woods, not needing to risk exposure by eating nuts or persimmons fallen in the road and they don't seem to need to graze on broad leaf ground vegetation like usual.  Also, there are less squirrels running across our fields searching for food to store for the rapidly approaching winter.
Last year was different.  The squirrels were crossing fields and roads, leaving their accustomed territory in search of food.  We had an unprecedented number of squirrels killed on our highways last winter.
I think that our cool wet spring let the trees to make plenty of fruit and nuts even though the fall has been pretty dry.
On my walk yesterday morning, I found plenty of choices for the herbaceous animals and birds.
Vines are heavy with fruit while multiflora rose hips are already filling woodland stomachs.  This single red hip now leans alone over my path.
Even my garden is doing its part, offering up a bounty of mature native lily seeds just waiting to be snapped up by hungry fauna.
I am thankful for the Oaks, for the hickory, for the beech and their kin.


Linda said...

Yes, I always heard "mast" as nature's food for deer and squirrels. We have plenty of acorns too, but it hasn't stopped the deer from raiding my flower garden. They ate my one and only zinnia and chomped off most of a rose bush.

Beyond The Garden said...

Oh Linda, so sad. Our fence cut the deer out of my garden, but the still gobble around the yard, I'm sorry about your rose.