I learned something on my walk today. Sometimes southern live oak acorns sprout while still on the tree!
Don’t they look like worms crawling out? Live oak acorns aren’t viable for very long after they fall from the tree, and sometimes they get a head start.
That jelly-like glob at the end will help keep the root tip from drying out until it gets good soil contact, and then adhere it to the ground once it lands.
Southern live oaks (Quercus virginiana) are host plants for Horace’s Duskywing, White M Hairstreak, and Northern Hairstreak butterflies, and the Consular Oakworm moth. Hopefully the caterpillars of one of these is the reason for so many ragged leaves!
[EDITED 11.08.15 to add:
Acorns sprouting on the tree is called vivipary and is most likely to occur during warm, wet fall weather. It is common in southern live oaks and sometimes occurs in other oak species as well.
Collection and Care of Acorns PDF
“A New Method of Germinating Acorns for Forest Planting” by John W. Harshberger, 1916
The Importance of Root-cap Mucilage for Plant and Soil
Root cap mucilage can serve several purposes. It might also keep excess water out of the acorn.
Southern Live Oak
Thanks to members of the NCNPS Facebook page for prompting me to dig a little deeper! ;)]