February 18, 2020
A pine tree sprouts from a cone at the Lynnhaven River NOW film festival! by Mary Reid Barrow

A funny thing happened at Lynnhaven River NOW’s tree exhibit Sunday.

A little loblolly pine tree grew from a pine cone on the tree table in the time it took to watch the last movie in the LRNow film festival at the Zeider Theater at Town Center

Two tiny needles actually sprouted from between pine cone scales on one of three cones in our display!

I had found all three pine cones in my driveway  and they looked pretty much the same, like all gray pine cones you find on the ground.

The miracle tree grew from the one cone I had soaked a bowl of water to show how a cone would close up when wet.  The other two pine cones on the table showed what the cones looked like when dry.  They were the control group so to speak.

The growth of a baby pine tree was certainly not part of the demonstration.

I am sure most of the “pine nuts”  in all three pine cones had dropped long before that day to grow, as nature intended, in the ground. Pine nuts usually drop in early fall before the cones fall from the tree.

That one little seed must have been what we call a late bloomer.

I had read that it was possible to sprout a tree from a pine cone, but in my view,  it seemed impossible.

To tell the truth I had never even seen a pine nut in a cone before, though I was well aware of the way squirrels high in a tree decimate a pine cone as they get their seeds for lunch. Various nuthatches pick out seeds from the cones to dine and even bears like pine nuts.

But critters can scramble through the pine trees to find ripe cones, before the cones have dropped their seeds and then fallen off the tree.

Yet this  happened:

In the display, I only  wanted to demonstrate how pine cones, with or without seeds, close up in the rain, or even in a bowl of water.   Botanists say this helps cones hold on to their seeds so they can fall on a sunny day and be dispersed by the wind and not just slip-slide out of a wet cone.

Much to my surprise, the display went on to demonstrate more.  In this case, I guess a dose of water was just what the pine nut needed to finally sprout, despite a tightly closed pine cone.

Now I’ll be trying to replicate that again, to no avail, I’m sure.  But it was a fun and surprising lesson to see what a pine tree can do to make sure its species survive.


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