I harvested some white oak acorns this fall and stored them in the fridge in freezer bags with moist paper towels and they are germinating already. Should I plant them in the spring or plant them now or has the early germination ruined them???
The early germination hasn't "ruined them"...like has been mentioned. I personally would suggest getting them into soil and protected if possible (if you don't protect them they will get dug up and eaten). My fear would be that the radical will die and or dry out before it would see the soil come spring (Especially in IL - My being in IN, I know spring can be nearly June at times). I try to plant the white oaks I collect the same fall they come off the tree.....to avoid this dilemma.
Straight White Oaks and English Oaks (a member of the white oak family) are the easiest acorns in the white oak family to germinate. I've seen them germinate lying on the ground after a rain. It's tricky but you can keep them (or some of them) till spring IF you are willing to baby them. However, the moist paper towels that keep them from drying too much pose a couple of problems. One, if you keep them too moist, you can experience mold problems and two, the radicals (with sufficient moisture (required to avoid dryness) can get pretty long and gnarly. To ensure you get some trees from your efforts, I suggest you direct seed half of your acorns in final locations (radicals down and with protection), and carefully monitor the other half of your acorns while in stratification (better check them a couple times a month until spring). A little trick for germinating acorns in the spring involves taking 8-10 acorns wrapped in a very damp paper towel and placed in a large drink container (with a lid) like you get at Micky-D's and placed in direct sunlight (with the lid on) for a couple hours in early spring. You will see the radicals climb upward at germination. A few days after germination, you will have acorns with several inch radicals (nice and straight) that can be planted (with the long radicals pointed down) with good success because the longer radical will extend deeper into the soil and not dry out so quickly. Be sure to water adequately any acorn you plant in the soil to ensure good soil-root (radical) contact. Otherwise they will like dry up and die. Good luck.