The mystery seeds from last week were from a pine, believe it or not.
We did a common experiment to see whether open, dry pine cones do indeed close up when placed in water. The seeds floated out of the first cone when we first placed it into the water.
And then the pine cone did close up, remarkably quickly.
We looked at another open pine cone.
You can just see tips of the seed wings on the hard pine cone scales. Those wings help them disperse in the wind, like the maple keys they resemble.
Here are pine cones on the ground. What kind of weather have we been having? (Hint: see above.)
Pine cones are often seen hanging on the tree. It takes at least nine months for the seeds to mature within the female cones. Some species require up to two years for the seeds to mature.
Even once the seeds are mature, certain types of pine cones remain closed until they are exposed to the intense heat of a fire.
The seed itself is within the winged structure. If you were to remove the coating, it would look like a pine nut:
If you are interested, here is a drawing of the pine seed germinating.
Although the tree associated with the Sonoran desert is usually the saguaro cactus, there are a few pine trees that are planted in urban areas. Two pines that can grow in hot dry conditions are the Mondel or Afghan pine, Pinus eldarica, and the Aleppo pine, Pinus halepensis. They are not native North America, but to regions around the Mediterranean.
What kind of pine trees grow where you live? Have you ever seen a pine seed?
Have you ever tried a pine nut? Look for some in you grocery store and give them a try.