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Colorful Conifer Cones

by William (Ned) Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum
May 14, 2016

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Colorful Conifer Cones

ConiferCones_directorsBlog43

Six weeks ago, larches (Larix) were in full glory with their brilliantly colored young seed cones, just emerged from winter buds. Now, spruces and firs are on display. At left, a rainbow of colors on a young seed cone of the ‘acrocana’ form of Norway spruce (Picea abies; 475-36*B; map here). This wonderful droopy tree (in the dwarf conifer collection) has the distinction of producing some of the most unusually colored young cones I have ever seen on a conifer.  Think raspberry and lemon sherbet. Picea abies forma acrocana is a natural mutant discovered in the wild in Sweden in 1890.

As I wandered the conifer collections, I was also struck by the bright yellow and intense red and purple pollen cones of two Nikko firs that reside next door to each other (Abies homolepis; 22767*A and 12410*A).  Interestingly, these two trees are labeled as the exact same variety of Nikko fir, but their pollen cones might suggest otherwise (or not). Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections, and Kyle Port, Manager of Plant Records, are looking into this curious case.

Finally, get out and enjoy the deep red cones of spruces at the Arnold Arboretum – pronto. It will be over in a week. One of the absolute best trees to gaze at red cones is Picea asperata (12-96*A; map here). The young seed cones are easy to spot since the tree is bushy and low – and totally worth the trip!

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