Pine cones aren’t just decoration. They’re tools trees use to survive.

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One of many easiest examples of how crops adapt to make sure that their species survives is present in pine cones.

Evergreen timber that produce cones are referred to as conifers. There are greater than 600 species of conifers — which embody pines, firs and spruce — every with its personal sort and dimension of cones.

Species survive by reproducing. Conifers reproduce as their seeds unfold, normally by wind.

In line with the American Conifer Society, pines symbolize the biggest group of conifers, so let’s take a better take a look at pine cones, which function seed protectors.

You would possibly surprise why pine timber’ seeds want defending and the way the cone helps.

Pine seeds are very small and hooked up to the top of wing-shaped membranes. The pine cone’s safety mechanism is triggered by temperature and water.

After the seeds are pollinated within the spring, the woodlike brown scales that make up the pine cone’s exterior shut, curving upward and inward to make a good seal round their seeds — usually so tight that squirrels and birds have hassle reaching the seeds to eat them. This protects the seeds as they mature, which might take a number of years.

The scales open when circumstances are good — heat and dry so the seeds’ winglike attachments may also help them disperse within the wind. (Heavy, moist pine seeds received’t journey removed from their dad or mum tree, so the evergreen needles above might block the sunshine and water wanted for them to develop.)

Such a intelligent adaptation!

You may watch the pine cone safety cycle occur in your individual kitchen. Late fall is an effective time to take a stroll the place there are pine timber and search for cones on the bottom. (Don’t go on personal property with out the proprietor’s permission.) Choose two which are about the identical dimension.

If closed, which means they had been in moist circumstances, so pat them with a towel and put them in a dry, heat place for a number of days. Or, for faster outcomes — with an grownup’s assist — put them on an ovenproof pan lined with aluminum foil, preheat the oven to 200 levels, then place the pan within the oven for about 45 minutes. Examine them periodically to see if the scales have opened. After they have, take away the pan from the oven and let the cones cool. Look between the scales for any seeds that may nonetheless be there. Tapping the cones firmly on a counter might assist launch any seeds. Research them.

Subsequent, take one of many open cones and measure the peak and circumference (across the widest a part of the cone), then put that cone in a bowl of ice water. Write down what time it’s. Quickly you need to see the scales closing. As soon as they’re utterly closed, make a remark of how lengthy that course of took, then evaluate the sizes of the open and closed cones. How do they differ?

For enjoyable, place one other open pine cone in heat water and evaluate closing occasions with the cold-water cone.

The arduous seed-producing cones you most frequently see are feminine. There are two seeds hooked up to every scale on these pine cones.

Male cones are smaller and yellowish, with lengthy clusters of pollen wanted to fertilize the seeds.

Pine cones can reside in a tree for 10 years with out falling, so every tree can have cones of various ages in numerous levels of growth.

Owls like to nest in conifers comparable to juniper, pine and spruce timber. After experimenting together with your pine cones, make some cute owls.

Supplies: A number of open pine cones, cotton balls, felt or building paper, scissors, glue and enormous googly eyes.

Steps: Set a pine cone upright. Push cotton balls between the scales. Reduce a face, beak, two wings and two ft from felt or building paper and glue every in place. Glue on massive googly eyes. Give your owl a reputation!

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