When is a pine cone not a pine cone? The answer,… when it’s not! Folks often see a conifer cone and call it a pine cone, but in reality it may not be a pine cone. There are many types of conifers that aren’t pines, such as spruce, true fir, hemlock and Douglas-fir to name a few.
Ponderosa pine cone in pen and ink.
So why do so many folks refer to all conifer cones as pine cones? Apparently, the pines won the branding contest. In the UK many people call refer to vacuum cleaners as Hoovers, in the USA many people call all colas Cokes and conifer cones are pine cones.
Pine cones have thick scales with a little point called an umbo. These images are some of our local pines.
Ponderosa pine cones are the classic western pine cones.
Sugar pine cones are the longest pine cones and reach 24 inches long. Sugar pine are a member of the white pine family.
Gray pine cones are large heavy cones that are very common in the foothills of California.
Knobcone pine cones are serotinous cones. Serotinous cones can remain attached to the tree for years and open after fire. These trees are referred to as fire pines.
Lodgepole pine are another fire pine. The cones are usually less than 2 inches wide.
Several years ago my youngest son climbed a Coulter pine tree to collect these beauties. Coulter pine is also called “big cone pine”, because they have the biggest cones of all, up to 10 pounds. These cones resemble a medieval mace.
Many of the non-pine species have thin scales with no point. These are some images of our local non-pine conifers.
White fir cones disintegrate when they’re ripe. White fir is a true fir. True fir cones stand upright on the limb.
It is rare to find intact true fir cones on the ground. This one was cut out of the tree by a squirrel.
Mountain hemlock have a thin scaled small cone.
Douglas-fir cones have extended bracts that stick out between the scales.
Sitka spruce cones also have thin scales. These spruce grow on the west coast from California to Alaska.
Incense cedar have tiny cones. Incense cedar is used for making wooden pencils.
This is a small sample of some of our local conifers. Next time someone calls a non-pine cone a pine cone, you’ll be ready to give them a forestry lesson.
It just seems right to end this post with a picture of Blitz. She’s still here in spirit.