In a recent study, scientists from the University of Leeds found that saplings grown from a single tree in a forest can offer an average of about 25% more nutrients than a single acacia.
Poplar is a perennial tree that can grow to nearly 100 metres (328ft) in height, and acacia saplings have a shorter life span.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore and the Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences at the University Of Auckland compared the nutritional value of three different species of acacia and poplar, which they said have similar physiological properties, such as a greater ability to withstand cold temperatures and be less susceptible to disease.
“A lot of people think of acorns as being the healthiest plant on the planet, but in terms of nutrient and energy intake, they are really just a pretty poor choice for a lot of other reasons,” said Dr Andrew Meehan, a plant physiologist at the university.
“The reason is that acorns are very low in nutrients, and that’s because they have been grown from seed.”
Researchers also found that the nutrients found in acorns could also be a detriment to the health of the soil in the soil, which could make it more prone to erosion.
“In fact, some of the acorns we studied also contained a toxin that is toxic to the soil,” Dr Meehans told ABC News.
“If you grow them in soil with a high soil organic matter, they can also have a very poor water quality.
So they are not going to be very good choices for those soils.”
Researchers said that the research had important implications for the health and well-being of people and ecosystems around the world.
“We can use the tree as a model to look at the health effects of the ecosystem, and the plant’s nutritional value can be used as a reference,” Dr Paul McEwan, a senior lecturer in environmental science at the National Union of Students, said.
“It can be a really important tool in the environmental science lab.”
Dr McEwen said that in a paper published in Nature Plants in 2010, he and his colleagues had studied how different species in different parts of the world fared in the presence of water contaminated by human-generated waste.
“One of the interesting results was that acacia was not the best plant to grow in areas that had a lot more sewage pollution,” Dr McEwin said.
He added that acacias are particularly valuable for areas where people are living near large industrial plants, and in areas with a lot pollution.
“They have good nutrient uptake from the air, so if they are used for agriculture, then the water quality is likely to be poor,” Dr Michael Dennison, a lecturer in plant physiology at the Australian National University, told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“Acacias can be very important for communities living near industrial sites, for example, where you have a lot sewage pollution and people are coming into close proximity to the plants.”
Professor Dennisons said that while the study had implications for a broader understanding of the health benefits of plant-based diets, it was a small study that did not really examine how these foods could impact the environment.
“There is an enormous amount of information that we have about the health implications of food and how we can get around those impacts,” he said.