Stories from the Barn

A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands

Pine Cones Winter’s Gift

Pine cones big and small

Pine cones are Winter’s flowers.

Advent Calendar 9

Many of us bring pine cones into our homes in Winter. There is something about the intricate texture and shape of the pine cone that is aesthetically pleasing to us. The cones fall to the ground in the Autumn, September and October are good times to gather them before the ground becomes too wet.

Decorating with pine cones

Using pine cones as decorations

Bring them indoors and celebrate.

Bringing the cones indoors in Winter is a cause for celebration. Darkness is creeping in, shutting the countryside outside so we bring it in. The holly, the ivy, the pine tree, all the greens. Then the pine cones and the chestnuts the warm browns. We will not be disconnected from the life outdoors. We feel better when we are part of the natural world.

Make bird feeders.

It couldn’t be easier to make a bird feeder from. Fill the cone with a mixture of lard and bird seed. Attach a thread and hang it from a branch on a tree. The birds can easily hop onboard and enjoy a feast.

Bird feeders

Pine Cone Bird feeders

Which pine cones are which?

There is only one native pine tree to the UK and that is the Scots Pine which is native only in parts of Scotland and Kielder in England. It is a tree that followed the glacial period and as the glaciers retreated could be found from Southern to Northern Britain. The warming up of the climate and probably changing land use as humans moved to an agricultural system caused the tree to become extinct in all but the most northern parts of the UK. The Scots Pine has been planted by the Forestry Commission and is now our second most abundant pine tree. It can live for up to 700 years and an aged Scots Pine is a very beautiful tree.

The poet Wordsworth preferred the Highland pine of Scotland;

‘to all other trees except the Oak, taking into consideration its beauty in winter, and by moonlight, and in the evening’

(Letter to the nurseryman James Grigor written from Rydall Mount, December 7, 1844).

Therefore the ones we are most likely to collect are Scots pine cones.

Winter pine cones

So what exactly is a pine cone?

Pine cones are the woody fruiting body and reproductive organ of pine trees. The Scots pine cones on the tree are red at pollination. They then turn a pale brown and are tiny, less than 10mm in diameter. They then spurt into growth in their second year and when mature measure 40 – 80mm. The seeds are held within by the scales on the cone. This keeps them safe from inclement weather and foraging animals. The seeds then mature and then when conditions are favourable released and the pine cones fall to earth. The seeds are a wonderful source of nutrition to birds and other animals are a Winter fuel for many of them just when they need them most. Do you have a budding nature conservationist in the family? Consider gifting them a Nature’s Path Book Box.

Pine cones big and small

From Giant Redwood cones to small fir cones.