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Notes on Conifers

by William (Ned) Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum
August 27, 2015

Conifers1_DirectorsBlog1

Notes on Conifers

Conifers1_DirectorsBlog1It totally caught me off guard! I took a stroll in the conifer collection this evening, and found myself in the pines. For reasons unknown, I was drawn to Pinus pungens (10706*A), the Table Mountain pine that hails from the Appalachian Mountains. I started to take pictures of the beautiful armed cones, Conifers2_DirectorsBlog1without seeing the whole tree. And then, as I stood under the tree, I looked up and my entire day was made perfect. A cloud of hundreds of old seed-bearing cones from the lastdecade silhouetted against the sky.

Table Mountain pine is serotinous, which means that it holds its seed-bearing cones for years, tightly closed, until fire arrives, and the heat of the fire opens the cones and releases the seeds (really old cones will eventually open up). A beautiful evolved mechanism to ensure that stands of Pinus pungens are ready to repopulate their native sites that are subject to natural episodic fires.

Make your way to one of our six Table Mountain pines and just sit down and marvel at the canopy above Conifers3_DirectorsBlog1you. Then, have a look at the spiny cones from years gone by. I believe it will make your day!

-Ned Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum

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