A cone is an organ on conifers plants that contains the reproductive structures. The familiar woody cone is the female cone, which produces seeds.
The male cones, which produce pollen, are usually herbaceous and much less conspicuous even at full maturity.
The name “cone” derives from the fact that the shape in some species resembles a geometric cone. The individual plates of a cone are known as scales.
After ripening, the opening of pine cones is associated with their moisture content, cones are open when dry and closed when wet.
This assures that the small, wind disseminated seeds will be dispersed during relatively dry weather, and thus, the distance traveled from the parent tree will be enhanced.
A pine cone will go through many cycles of opening and closing during its life span, even after seed dispersal is complete.
This process occurs with older cones while attached to branches and even after the older cones have fallen to the forest floor.
The condition of fallen pine cones is a crude indication of the forest floor’s moisture content, which is an important indication of wildfire risk.
Closed cones indicate damp conditions while open cones indicate the forest floor is dry.
Because of their widespread occurrence, conifer cones have been a traditional part of the arts and crafts of cultures where conifers are common.
Examples of their use includes seasonal wreaths and decorations, fire starters, bird feeders and toys.
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