Make use of the pine cones in your area

Cones are made up of scales that form tightly together as the cone grows.

Pine cones
Ponderosa pine cones accent this holiday arrangement for a natural effect. John Zvirvoski / The Sun

This time of year, spruce, fir and pine trees are at their most popular due to the holiday season. Their seed pods, known as pine cones, are equally as popular as people have developed many uses for them not only during the holiday season but throughout winter.

Pine cones are produced on many upright evergreen species. They are created during the spring season when the evergreen produces male and female cones. The male cones remain small and produce the pollen clouds that fertilize the female cones. It is the female cones that produce the cone many of us are familiar with in the trees. The cones are made up of scales that form tightly together as the cone grows. Within each scale is a pine seed that is dispersed when it is ripe and the cone is dry and begins to open. These seeds can blow in the wind traveling quite a distance in order to drop to the ground and begin a new seedling.

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Cones will open and close their scales often during their lifetime due to the humidity or dryness in the air. Many people know what the condition of a forest is based on the nature of the cone. If cones on the trees and on the forest floor remain closed, the moisture content is high in the area. If they are open, the environment is considered dry. This is also a good indicator if cones remain open for long periods of time to predict the probability of forest fires in the area. Nature gives us many signs as to what is going on around us, we just have to be bright enough to pay attention to what it is saying.


Many of the pine cones in our area come from blue spruce, black hills spruce, white spruce, Norway spruce, Scotch pine, white pine, ponderosa pine and larch. Of course, there are other evergreens outside of our area such as the lodge pole pine, pinyon pine, bristlecone pine, jack pine and many fir selections, to name a few.

The largest of the pine cones come from the Coulter pine, which is known as the widowmaker. These cones can weigh as much as 4 to 11 pounds each. If one of these lands on your head, there could be trouble. The Sugar pine creates the longest cone of up to 22 inches in length.

Other than creating new trees, the pine cone has many other uses. Birds and squirrels love to eat the seeds as the cones open as they are high in nutrients. People enjoy using them for home décor and crafting.

Pinecones make great fire starters, but I recommend this more for outdoor use than for indoors as the cones are dry and tend to pop sparks out of the fireplace. I have often seen them used indoors coated in a wax to prevent this sparking and allowing them a more slow burn to start a fire.

Pine cones also make great wreaths for the season. Whether you tie them into an artificial wreath for accent or you make one strictly out of cones is up to the individual. Make sure you create your work of art while the cones are dry and fully opened as green cones will expand later and could cause issues in your crafting project.

With our beautiful autumn season, our parks have been filled with the cones of the scotch pine, which measure about an inch and a half around and the ponderosa pines which measure about 3 to 4 inches around. Some people enjoy the larger cones as they don’t take as many to show up in an arrangement. The smaller cones are more ideal for daintier projects.

My mom used to create these beautiful little Christmas trees made from an 18-inch Styrofoam cone that is wrapped in a dark green or brown felt. Then the ends of the spruce or scotch pine cones are glued all the way around to the top until the entire cone is covered. You can spray these finished products with a sealant or a color if you prefer. Some like the metallic gold color with glitter added, some like a shiny mahogany sheen, while others prefer the natural look. As with any crafting project, each person has his or her own tastes. When using natural products around your area, most of the crafting costs remain low. Maybe think about doing something as a natural gift for a friend who might enjoy something of this type. The ideas are many, especially if you go online to some of the websites like Pinterest, but beware as they will take a great deal of time out of your day!

Pine cones are a great product in our area in which to be creative. They are fun to teach children about different elements also whether it is for crafting or for learning more about nature. Take in all the bounties the surround us and enjoy the season in a different way. You might find some new and creative uses on your own.

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