Sunday, November 12, 2017
Some combination of favorable weather conditions resulted in a huge crop of pine cones on several different varieties of trees this year. These Norway Spruce trees are still holding a heavy load of cones despite their fallen cones thickly covering the ground. These trees regularly produce a crop of cones but their numbers are usually small. This crop exceeds anything that we have seen in the past.
Norway Spruce cones remain tightly closed whether on the tree or on the ground. Some resident rodent peels the cones to expose the seeds tucked close to the center shaft. This bounty will likely help the squirrels and chipmunks survive the winter in great numbers. The impact of great numbers of these creatures remains to be seen. A recent bumper crop of acorns aided an increase in the number of mice which was a factor in a record number of ticks.
Not all trees with needles rather than leaves remain evergreen. Larch trees needles change from green to a beautiful gold before falling to the ground. New green needles will not be seen here until next spring.
They may be dropping their needles but they retain a tight hold on their cones. A slight disturbance now will cause seeds to drop from the cones. These trees were planted in some of the driest ground we have. Perhaps this will be the year when some of these cones are scattered on ground that is frequently wet. Larch trees prefer moist soil.
Our White Pines have matured and dropped their cones. Hungry critters peel away the scales in search of seeds. Scales and stripped cone centers litter the ground while the seeds are secreted away for winter food.
These cones have been gathered for two reasons. Their open structure and white colored tips make attractive holiday displays. They reportedly make excellent fire starters. Once snow covers the ground, I plan to make small fires to clear away the nuisance shrubs unearthed earlier this year. These White Pine cones may help start the fires.