It 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, without 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 last…decade 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.
-Ned Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum