Meet Our Common Tree Nuts

wild nuts and seeds

Meet Our Wild Nuts

Hello! In this tutorial, we are going to meet some of the most common tree nuts you are likely to find on your countryside nature walk and learn how to identify them. Their names are:

  • Beech
  • Hazel
  • Horse chestnut
  • Oak
  • Sweet chestnut
  • Walnut

Are you ready to meet them? Lets get started!

Which trees have nuts and seeds?

There are many sizes and shapes of tree seeds, but usually, we only notice the larger sized seeds. In addition to the trees mentioned here, there are also nine other seed-bearing trees you may spot on your nature walks: These are ash, field maple, hornbeam, linden, London plane, Norway maple, pine, sycamore and wych elm, which you can learn more about on my tree seeds tutorial.

How to identify our most common nuts

acorns

Acorns

Acorns come in all shapes and sizes, but usually have an oval shaped seed nestled in a textured cup.

identifying beech nuts and seeds

Beech nuts (mast)

Beech nuts are triangular and nestled inside a three-bladed husk, which is smooth inside and spiky outside.

hazel nuts

Hazel (filberts)

Hazelnuts are round with a little crinkled gather at the top and sit inside a feathery, leafy husk.

horse chestnuts

Horse chestnuts (conkers)

Horse chestnuts are round, deep chestnut brown with a pale spot beneath and grow inside a tough, spiky, rounded shell.

sweet chestnuts

Sweet chestnuts

Sweet chestnuts are a beautiful reddish brown, with pale tufts on top and often grow in pairs inside a spikey shell.

walnuts

Walnuts

Walnuts are a light brown, crinkly nut, growing inside a tough, fibrous shell, inside a tough, apple-green outer husk.

What are nuts?

Nuts and seeds are basically the babies or offspring of parent trees.

They are produced following pollination of the trees’ flowers and contain all the genetic material of the tree and inside, they have a supply of food and nutrients ready to start their journey into new trees. In fact, even their shapes are specially designed to help give the seedlings a head start in life.

Because, in order to grow up strong and healthy, trees need space to grow and access to good sunlight. So, if they fell and sprouted right under their parent, they would be competing with them for space, sun and nutrients.

In order to solve this little problem, nuts have found different ways to help themselves disperse and travel away from their parent tree.

How are nuts adapted to travel?

To help them on their journey, seeds and nuts have adapted various tricks to help them travel.
 
Some nuts are hard and round, like horse chestnuts. This way, when they fall, they bounce and roll away. Others make themselves tasty to wildlife like squirrels (like acorns and hazelnuts), who carry them away and even bury them in the earth.

Yet others have little pockets or air to make them bouyant so they float. Or, they have wings to fly away.

But, you may be wondering, how can they grow if they are eaten? Well… think about how many acorns the squirrels bury… and in how many places. No matter how many they eat, there will always be some left over or forgotten about. These are the nuts which grow.

How do nuts avoid being eaten?

Aside from dispering away from their parents, another problem that nuts and seeds face, is surviving long enough to mature and be ready for the seed to grow. Because, it is not good for the nuts to be eaten or carried away from the tree before they are ready. So, they have developed various tricks here too.
 
Look at the beech nuts, horse chestnuts and sweet chestnuts above. Can you see their spines? The spikes and spines on these nuts deter animals from picking them up or eating them until the seed inside is ready.

Once they are ready, these husky, spiky shells split open – often as the nuts hit the ground when they fall. This reveals the tasty, non-spiky nuts inside, ready for the animals to dig them out.

Some nuts use a trick of making themselves taste disgusting too. Like horse chestnuts. These contain a chemical called saponins and any animal who eats one, will be left with a horrible taste in their mouth and so learn to leave them alone.

Summary

Well, there we go! In this tutorial, we have met six of our most common tree nuts and learn how to identify them. Can you remember their names? They are:

  • Beech
  • Hazel
  • Horse chestnut
  • Oak
  • Sweet chestnut
  • Walnut

In addition to meeting these nuts, we also learned a little bit about what they are (shelter and protection for baby trees) and how even their shapes help out the little trees disperse and avoid being eaten or carried away too soon.

Wild nut nature study

Right! Are you ready for your wild nuts nature study?

Your first task, is to download the resource that accompanies this lesson.

Your next task, is to take a nature walk and look for nuts! I want you to:

  • Try and identify the nuts you find
  • Handle the nuts and look at their shapes, weight, textures and colours
  • Examine their husks – examine the insides and the outsides of the husks. How do they feel? How are they different?
  • Think about how the shape of the nut and its husk or coating might help it travel or avoid being eaten

Your resource for this lesson

My Nature Nook

Hello, I’m Leila! Welcome to My Nature Nook. I help families learn about and connect with Nature. Learn more

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2 thoughts on “Meet Our Common Tree Nuts”

  1. I wish I could post a picture on here! What we’ve got down our lane are many unidentified nut-like objects. They are fatter than an acorn and there are no ‘cups’ anywhere! They’re about 2cm long, but not cylindrical like an acorn. The outer shell is bright green, tapering to cream where it was attached to the tree. Inside are usually two brown nuts. So far, we have found nothing like these nuts despite several Google searches. Can anyone in here help, please? We’re completely baffled!

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