Presenting… pine cones, great and small

As Christmas approaches, we bring the outside in. Decorated pine trees are a festive essential, so we’ve invited our colleagues at the University of Oxford’s Herbaria to share a few of their favourites.
From 16 December 2014 to 3 February 2015

Pine case

Pines belong to the genus Pinus, and have a prominent place in the Plant Kingdom. They grow in many places in the northern hemisphere, but are quite rare south of the Equator.

Martinez Pinyon pine cone Martinez Pinyon pine cone

Of the approximately 170 pine species, the Scots Pine is the most widely distributed; occurring through Scotland, central Europe and Scandinavia, and extending into Russia and Mongolia.

Pines are evergreens and are long-lived trees. A Bristlecone Pine nicknamed ‘Prometheus’, was more than 4,844 years old when it was cut down in Nevada, USA in 1964 . That means it must have germinated at the time of the early Ancient Egyptians! Pines can also reach great heights. The tallest, at 81.79 m, is a Ponderosa Pine growing in southern Oregon, USA.

Michoacan pine Michoacan pine cone

The familiar woody pine cones are female reproductive structures and contain seeds. Most cones hang downwards while they grow; when the cone opens the winged seeds fall out and are dispersed by the wind. Pine seeds may also be dispersed by birds, typically when eaten by members of the crow family. The seeds germinate wherever they finally land, in the birds’ droppings.

Narrowcone pine Narrowcone pine cone

Different pines have adapted to specific habitats. Seeds of the Narrowcone Pine are only released after forest fires. They are protected in dense cones which do not burn. Once the fire has cleared the ground of competition from other plants, and produced plenty of nutrient-rich ash, conditions are right for the Narrowcone Pine seedlings to flourish.

Other features from our Presenting... series
William Burchell
Bruno Debattista’s horseshoe crab trace fossil
Fulgurites
Museum memories
A space traveller’s arrival
Alfred Russel Wallace
William Smith
The science of disguise
Our new Collections Manager - Hilary Ketchum
The Breath of Life
Charles Darwin's insects
Megalosaurus
The Oxford Dodo
Fossils of the Gault Clay
Madagascar
A wartime gift
The other Audubon
The wonderful diversity of bees
A plesiosaur named Eve
The Worldwide Web
Dr Buckland and the Bear
Pioneers of Photography
'Flight' of the Dodo
Charles Lyell
Delightful Dung Beetles
John Obadiah Westwood
John Eddowes Bowman

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