Acorn and Seed Collection Procedures

Collecting acorns preserves Virginia trees.

The Virginia Department of Forestry needs your help to continue producing quality seedlings for Virginia landowners. Virginia-grown seed generally produces trees that will grow well in our state. Every year, homeowners from all over the state donate acorns and other seed to help us produce the next season’s crop. Seed collection is a great activity for children and adults! It also allows individuals to learn more about Virginia trees. Every year, homeowners spend countless hours raking up acorns and wonder what to do with them. We have the answer... donate your acorns to the Virginia Department of Forestry!

Species Needed for 2016

Deadline for delivering acorn and seed to VDOF offices: October 16, 2017.

The species shown below should be easy to find around your yard or other urban areas and are easy to collect.

  1. Black Oak
  2. Black Walnut
  3. Chinese Chestnut
  4. Chestnut Oak
  5. Live Oak
  6. Northern Red Oak
  7. Pin Oak
  8. Sawtooth Oak
  9. Southern Red Oak
  10. Swamp Chestnut Oak
  11. Swamp White Oak
  12. White Oak
  13. Willow Oak

Acorn and seed description information can assist you in identifying acorns or seeds.

How and When to Collect

The best time for seed collection is during the months of September and October in most areas of the state. You should try to stay away from trees in the forest where leaves, limbs and forest litter make it very difficult to collect. Locate open-grown trees that are heavily loaded with acorns or seeds that are in large open areas, such as adjacent to schools, churches or parking lots. Oftentimes, it is hard to identify where the seed came from if there are many different species of trees nearby. Look for healthy trees; avoid trees that have bulges or insect infestation, or appear diseased or strangely deformed.

Once good acorns and seeds have begun to fall, use leaf rakes or blowers to make collection easier. Simply rake or blow the acorns into a pile and then pick them up and place in a bucket prior to dumping into collection bags so you can remove any damaged seeds, sticks, leaves, rocks, debris or other trash.


Acorns turn from green to various shades of brown as they mature. Generally, acorns are mature when they naturally start to fall from the tree, or fall when the tree limbs are shaken. The caps of mature acorns will come off. Very green acorns that fall from the tree early should not be collected.

Guidelines for Collecting

If you would like to participate in seed collection, please use the following guidelines.

  1. Make sure the tree is correctly identified.
  2. Try to keep as much trash (sticks, leaves, gravel, etc.) out as possible.
  3. It doesn’t matter if acorns still have the caps on them or not.
  4. Place the seed in a breathable sack or bag, such as a burlap or paper bag. (No Plastic Bags, Please!)
  5. One type of seed should not be mixed with another. (For example: white oak acorns should be in one bag and red oak acorns should be in another.)
  6. Make sure each bag of seed is labeled with the species, source location and date. If you are uncertain of the species, include one leaf and stem in the bag to help the nursery staff identify the seed.
  7. Once the seed is collected, place in a cool area. Seed will spoil if it is overheated. Do not allow seed to dry out for an extended period (more than 10 days or so).
  8. Bring the seed to your local forestry office or the Augusta Forestry Center within seven to 10 days.

Augusta Forestry Center
90 Forestry Center Lane, Crimora, VA 24431

If necessary, collected seeds can be stored in the refrigerator. Do not freeze the seeds. To preserve viability, store acorns in bags that inhibit drying but also allow air to flow to prevent heat buildup.