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Agriculture Today

Behavior of acorns from hybrids

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March 22, 2011 | 3,089 views | Post a comment

Q.We have a question about the behavior of acorns from hybrid live oak trees. We and our neighbors have lots of the trees, and they produce lots of acorns. Many of the acorns germinate. The resulting trees have leaves with margins which, instead of being relatively smooth, are much more serrated than the leaves on the parent trees.

So we’re puzzled. First, I thought that hybrid plants didn’t produce seed that will germinate to produce a second generation -- at least that’s what I’ve been told related to packages of hybrid seed for the vegetable garden. Then, if hybrids can produce viable seed, how is it that the offspring have different leaves?

A. The serrated edges are a common characteristic of juvenile live oak seedlings. They change as they mature.

All oaks are grown from seed and thus are hybrids. All the acorns they produce are also hybrid and capable of germinating. Most hybridized vegetables and flowers produce viable seeds. The progeny represent the diversity of the seed’s parentage and thus only a few reproduce the desirable F1 generation form. There can be complex hybridization schemes that result in sterile progeny, but most don’t.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at

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