Chestnut oaks (and their cousins in the “white oak” group) send down roots in the fall, racing against rodents. Once rooted, the seedling can survive the predatory munchings of mice and chipmunks. When temperatures warm in the spring, leafy shoots emerge: hopeful bids for a place in the canopy decades hence.
Red oaks have a different germination strategy. They load their acorns with bitter tannins. A bite on one of these poisoned seeds puckers your mouth; swallow one and your gut clenches. White oaks are sweeter to the palate. Thus defended, the red oak waits out winter inside its protective coat, poking out a root when winter is finally done.
Shoots rise, roots descend. The growing season is underway.