Sunday, April 25, 2010

Things I Don't Know About Farming #1: Where Are Pine Seeds?

Retro Man and I noticed that a lot of pine cones had fallen on Tree Ring since the last time we were there, so we brought one home.  We thought we could plant the pine cone and grow a Country slash pine on our City property.  

But we looked closer and thought maybe there were seeds in the pine cone.  

So we looked for the seed.

Not knowing what a pine tree seed looks like, we figured that you plucked one of the wooden thingies from the pine cone and the seed would be attached.

Nope.  That thing wouldn't budge.

So we looked it up on-line.

The wooden thingy is called a scale.

Turns out there are male and female cones (duh, of course).  The male cones are called catkins and are very small and fragile.  They release pollen in the Spring to fertilized the female cones and then fall off the tree. 

Female pine cones take 2-3 years to mature.   While the female cones are closed and growing, they develop little winged seeds close to the center of the pine cone.  When the pine cone opens, the seeds fly out and disperse seeds up to 150 feet from the tree.  Many pine cones require fire to open and free the seed, which is true for the Longleaf Pine (my favorite), and one of the reasons that Longleaf is no longer prevalent due to the unpopularity of burning.  A picture of some longleaf pine seeds can be found here.

The pine cone we brought home was open and didn't have any seeds.  But we pulled apart some unopened scales at the bottom and found tiny winged seeds.

Something I didn't realize is that pine nuts are truly edible pine seeds.

So now we know where pine seeds are.


  1. That is an interesting post...I've never eaten pine seeds but had heard they were edible...let us know if and when you find some to try.

  2. There were some excellent pine nuts in the market last year that now seem to have disappeared.

    Pine is my fave tree and I have a large collection of cones from the Sierra Nevada mountains. I love how aromatic the trees are and how the fallen needles smell with a hot sun bearing down upon them.

  3. Very interesting. I knew the seeds must be in the cone but that's all. Thanks for the lesson!