Planting a tree—especially a hardwood like an oak—has always been an exercise in legacy. You plant that seedling, care for it, protect it and watch over it for decades with the vision that someday your kids or grandkids will hunt the deer that come to feed on the acorns it will drop. By then you’ll be hunting with the dearly departed, but the kids will harvest that deer, think about gramps, and remember him fondly.
Awhile back I had the unusual chance to tour Mossy Oak Nativ Nurseries near West Point, Mississippi and my eyes were opened to a whole new way of thinking about planting trees—for now and for legacy. This year, for the first time, Nativ Nurseries is shipping natural hybrid oak trees that can grow to more than three-inches through the trunk and produce significant drops of acorns in just five years!
This incredible breakthrough in managing habitat for wildlife is due to the vision and observations of Mossy Oak founder, Toxey Haas. For decades, Toxey hunted across the southern United States and noticed that the acorns of certain, specific, individual oak trees among all others in the same woods were more attractive to deer. As he pondered this, Toxey came to understand all oak trees are as individual as snowflakes. Some produce acorns in unique abundance year after year no matter what the other trees around them do. Other individual trees drop acorns earlier in the season. Still others drop much later than average year after year. Yet other individual trees began producing acorns years ahead of other trees the same age.
Fascinated, Toxey began to collect, label and meticulously propagate acorns from these specific trees. In a backyard greenhouse, he planted the acorns and began to track their growth and development and record whether they lived up to the traits of the trees from which they came. Year after year, he made amazing new discoveries about specific trees that produced earlier, later, faster, bigger and more bountifully.
With the same entrepreneurial instincts with which Toxey built the Mossy Oak brand from him hand-sewing and selling garments more than 30 years ago into the highly-respected, multi-faceted industry it is today, he’s now developed Mossy Oak Nativ Nurseries to the point where they are shipping trees all over the country for the first time this spring.
The trees from which the acorns come that produce the nursery stock are carefully guarded secrets, but now each fall and winter a small army of Mossy Oakers on their hands and knees collect acorns from them. And each season the army’s general, Toxey, continues right out there on his knees with them!
The collected seeds are stored under controlled, optimal conditions until just the right time in the spring when they are planted to the tune of hundreds of thousands! Thousands of square feet of greenhouse space shelter and nurture the sprouts, then seedlings. The seedlings are grown in specially designed air pruning pots to develop a superior root mass which boosts the survival rate of Nativ Nurseries trees far beyond that of traditional bare root trees.
Imagine! You can plant a Mossy Oak Nativ Nurseries oak tree this spring or next that you and your son or daughter could very well hunt under—together—for many seasons to come! Incredible!