Growing the Forests of Tomorrow

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) needs your help to continue producing quality seedlings for Virginia landowners. Collect and donate acorns to VDOF this fall!

VDOF grows more than a dozen species of hardwood seedlings at the Augusta Forestry Center. The seedlings produced are sold to Virginia landowners, typically to reforest open lands.

The work of growing the forests of tomorrow begins with seeds. Virginia-grown seed generally produces trees that will best thrive in our state’s climates. Each year, homeowners collect acorns and nuts from all across the state and donate them to the Forestry Center. Acorn collection is a great activity for both children and adults, and it provides an opportunity to learn more about Virginia trees.

If you would like to participate in seed collection, please collect and deliver you acorns and nuts to a VDOF office by October 16, 2020 and follow the acorn collection guidelines outlined here.


Species Needed for 2020

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

The species listed here are common in yards or other developed areas and should have nuts that are easy to collect. Acorn and seed description information can assist you with accurate identification.

Acorn Collection Guidelines

  • Deadline for delivering acorns and nuts to VDOF offices is October 16, 2020. September and October are the best months for seed collection throughout most areas of the state.
  • Look for healthy, heavily-loaded trees. Avoid trees that have bulges or insect infestation, or appear diseased or strangely deformed. 
  • Collect from trees that are spread out in open areas. It can be difficult to identify which tree species a nut came from if there are many different species nearby. Trees near schools, parking lots or office buildings are often good choices for collection.
  • Collect mature, ripe acorns. Acorns turn from green to various shades of brown as they mature. Generally, mature acorns will fall naturally from the tree or will fall easily if a limb is gently shaken. The caps of mature acorns will come off – it’s still okay to collect uncapped acorns. Very green acorns that fall from the tree early should not be collected.
  • Avoid trees in dense forests where leaves, limbs and forest litter make it very difficult to collect. Once acorns and nuts have begun to fall, use leaf rakes or blowers form a pile and make collection easier. Before placing nuts in collection bags, remove any damaged seeds, sticks, leaves, rocks, debris or other trash.

Procedures for Collection and Storage

  1. Make sure the tree is correctly identified.
  2. Minimize debris (e.g. sticks, leaves, gravel, trash) in the collection bag.
  3. Store the nuts in a bag made of breathable material, such as burlap or paper. No plastic bags, please!
  4. Make sure each bag of seed is labeled with the species, source location and date. Do not mix nuts from different species in the same bag.
  5. Store collected nuts in a cool area (not a freezer) for no more than 10 days before delivering to a VDOF office. If necessary, nuts may be placed in a refrigerator for a short period of time.
  6. Bring the seed to your local forestry office or the Augusta Forestry Center within seven to 10 days. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I donate a species not on the list?
A: Yes. If you're able to correctly identify a species, the nursery can accept the donation. If they receive an abundance of a particular species, nursery staff can plant the seeds or add it to their existing nut supply. 

Q: Why does VDOF collect acorns/nuts from non-native trees? Isn’t that bad?
A: While most of the species grown and sold from VDOF’s nursery are native to Virginia, some others are naturalized to the area and serve important roles in the landscape, such as timber, wildlife habitat, food, riparian buffer restoration, or other purposes. None of the species sold are invasive. If you have specific questions about a species, please reach out to the Augusta Forestry Center at 540-363-7000 or contact Monica Davis at monica.davis@dof.virginia.gov.

Q: I live in a state adjacent to Virginia. Can I still donate acorns from my yard?
A: It depends – if you’re on the border of Virginia in another state, it may still be appropriate to donate nuts to VDOF. Please reach out to the Augusta Forestry Center at 540-363-7000 or contact Monica Davis at monica.davis@dof.virginia.gov for more specific guidance. Thanks for the interstate support!

Q: Does is matter if the acorns I collected don’t have caps?
A: No, it does not matter. Mature acorns will typically lose their caps.

Q: Can I bring a bag of all the acorns I raked up in my yard?
A: It’s important to have the nuts sorted by species and labeled appropriately before donating them to the VDOF Forestry Center. Don’t mix the seeds from multiple tree species in a single bag, or nursery staff will likely be unable to identify the seeds.

Q: There is a tree in my yard that produces a lot of nuts, but I’m not sure what species it is. Will you still accept nuts from this tree?
A: There are several tools you can utilize to identify acorns or nuts before you collect (bonus: it’s a great excuse to learn more about the trees in your yard!) If you’re still unsure, but you think it may be a species included on this year’s list, include a leaf and stem in the bag with the collected nuts so the nursery staff can identify the seed. Be sure to still include the date and location of collection.

Acorn and Nut Description
Common Native Trees of Virginia

Q: Oops! I forgot about this bag of acorns I collected. Are they still usable?
A: It’s best to deliver the nuts quickly after they are collected. Nuts and acorns will spoil if overheated and will be unusable if they dry out during an extended period of time (more than a week). If the nuts haven’t been stored properly, it’s best to return them to the collection site and hope they can serve as food for wildlife!

Q: Can I mail my seeds to you?
A: If you’re unable to donate the nuts in person, please still follow the appropriate guidelines for collection and mail them to:

Augusta Forestry Center
90 Forestry Center Lane
Crimora, VA 24431