Oak Leaf Litter

Have you ever noticed that oak forests tend to have much more leaf litter on the ground than other forests? This is because oak leaves decompose at a much slower rate than most other leaves. Oaks, Beech, and Chestnut leaves have higher tannin and lignin levels than most other species of tree; and, these chemicals are preservatives slowing down the rate of decomposition. This is one of the defining characteristics of the Fagacea family of trees. This family includes the oak, beech, and chestnut trees. Left alone it may take 3 to 4 years for oak leaves to break down. If you are composting oak leaves you can speed up this decomposition by shredding them or tilling up the ground. Another way to speed up this process is to mix the leaves with nitrogen rich compost such as manure or coffee grounds.

Article by Mike Kay, FCFCDB

Photo credit frederick.forestryboard.org - Mike Kay

Nature note for 1/1/22