What we often refer to as ‘pine cones‘ are usually the female seed cones of pine, fir, and spruce trees. These types of conifers are celebrated during the northern hemisphere’s autumn and winter seasons, but they have a lot going on in the spring, too.
Learn what those springtime orange clusters on conifers are and why clouds of yellow pollen can fly off pine trees when there are no flowers to be seen. This Nature Clearly video has some answers. From the narration:
“Pines are not pollinated by insects or birds, as you might be used to from flowering plants. Instead, the pollen is released from male cones and carried away by wind…”
“Pollen drifting through the air randomly finds its way inside the female cone through small openings. After the pollen is received, the female cone closes completely while the sperm produced by the pollen joins with the ovule. This is called fertilization and it will result in a seed.”
And pine trees grow both male cones—the pollen-rich orange clusters—and female cones on their branches. From The Washington Post‘s KidsPost:
“After the seeds are pollinated in the spring, the woodlike brown scales that make up the pine cone’s exterior close, curving upward and inward to make a tight seal around their seeds — often so tight that squirrels and birds have trouble reaching the seeds to eat them. This protects the seeds as they mature, which could take several years.
“The scales open when conditions are just right — warm and dry so the seeds’ winglike attachments can help them disperse in the wind.”
Nature Clearly is a YouTube channel dedicated to learning about nature through everyday observations, including the observation of an open pine cone soaked in water. Try that activity, and find more at NatureClearly.com.
WaPo’s KidsPost shares an easy pine cone craft, too.
Then watch more videos about seed dispersal, including:
• Symbiosis and a surprising tale of species cooperation
• This humidity-powered seed drills itself into the ground
• Exploding plants disperse their seeds with high pressure bursts
• How do seeds get around? Maddie Moate explains seed dispersal
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