On the table in front of me sits a tiny, tan object that fell from an oak tree. It reminds me of pictures of medieval battle helmets worn by the Huns or perhaps the Mongols. An array of triangular bumps protrudes in alternating circles from the top center, forming a diagonal pattern as they descend, to end in a fringe.
Most acorns lie about the ground sporting their own, made to order caps. But this—cap?—cradles its seed that, when released, is hatless. It became the dull, tan color only as it dried, cracked, and released the acorn. But when first I found it, it was a glorious chartreuse with waving threads hiding its treasure.
I know there are many different varieties of oak, white, red, black and even live. Long ago, in Girl Scouts, we learned a song with hand moves, “Love Grows Under the White Oak Tree,” and I was told you recognize different oaks by their bark. The Internet now tells me that the name “oak” can be used for 400 varieties of trees and shrubs, and lists 15 common types. My acorn belongs to the Bur Oak tree. This type, with so distinctive an acorn, has become my favorite and is certainly worthy of mapping tree locations. There’s one in Glenfield Park, Montclair. So hurry over there, if you’d like to capture one of the burs for yourself.