Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

Different Kinds of Tree Cones

...
winter pine cone image by Mary Lane from Fotolia.com

Conifers, or cone-bearing trees, are mostly evergreen and have thin, spiky leaves called needles. Conifers include the pine, fir and spruce families. The cones of these trees vary widely in size, color and texture, but all carry and protect the tree's seeds until they are mature, at which point the cones release the seeds to the winds. Some deciduous trees also form hard, conical-shaped seed pods, but these are properly called catkins rather than cones.

Pine and Sequoia Cones

...
giant sequoia's image by pixelcarpenter from Fotolia.com

Trees species in the pine family (Pinus spp.) are conifers with long flexible needles. Pine tree seeds are held in cones that vary widely in size depending on the species, but all are characterized by hard, woody scales attached to a central stem. Once the cone opens and the pine seeds are released, pine scales remain attached to the central core, resulting in a hard, pyramidal shaped cone which is very attractive for many craft uses.

  • Conifers, or cone-bearing trees, are mostly evergreen and have thin, spiky leaves called needles.

Sequoia cones differ from pine cones in that the bracts, which, according to Charles Bessey writing on the "Morphology of the Pine Cone" for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1902, are part of the stamens or reproductive organs of the sequoia flower, comprise the dominant visible structure of the cone. Instead of open petal-like scales such as on a pine cone, the sequoia cone appears to be a series of diamond-shaped woody blocks with narrow diagonal openings in between them which release the sequoia seeds.

Spruce and Fir Cones

...
detail of spruce cone image by Tomo Jesenicnik from Fotolia.com

Spruce cones are softer than pine cones, according to the University of Saskatchewan Extension. Spruce cone scales are thinner, generally downward pointing toward the tip of the cone, and remain flexible rather than becoming woody like those on a pine cone. Fir cones appear similar in structure, but grow pointed upward on the tree branches, not hanging downward like spruce cones. The Saskatchewan Extension notes that fir cone scales are also deciduous--they fall off of the central cone axis each year, leaving the core of the cone remaining standing upright on the tree branches.

Catkins

...
lowering alder image by Henryk Dybka from Fotolia.com

Many deciduous trees, including birch (Betula spp.), alder (Alnus spp.) and pecans (Carya illinoinensis) flower in descending, tapering spikes that, according to the University of Massachusetts Extension Service, are properly called catkins. In many of these tree varieties, particularly alders, the supporting stem frame of these catkins hardens into a woody, conical structure after blooming is completed. While these structures are commonly referred to as cones, and are often used in crafts and decorating along with pine cones, botanically they remain catkins, or catkin shells, as the trees they come from are not conifers.

  • Sequoia cones differ from pine cones in that the bracts, which, according to Charles Bessey writing on the "Morphology of the Pine Cone" for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1902, are part of the stamens or reproductive organs of the sequoia flower, comprise the dominant visible structure of the cone.
  • Fir cones appear similar in structure, but grow pointed upward on the tree branches, not hanging downward like spruce cones.

Related Articles

Do Pine Trees Reproduce Asexually?
Do Pine Trees Reproduce Asexually?
Characteristics of a Coniferous Tree
Characteristics of a Coniferous Tree
Differences Between Birch Trees & Aspens
Differences Between Birch Trees & Aspens
How Do Cedar Trees Reproduce?
How Do Cedar Trees Reproduce?
The Differences Between Redwood and Sequoia Trees
The Differences Between Redwood and Sequoia Trees
How to Grow Norway Spruce From a Seed
How to Grow Norway Spruce From a Seed
Parts of Pine Trees
Parts of Pine Trees
Are Elm Trees Hardwood?
Are Elm Trees Hardwood?
Parts of a Lily Flower
Parts of a Lily Flower
What Part of a Plant Makes Pollen?
What Part of a Plant Makes Pollen?
Types of Coniferous Trees
Types of Coniferous Trees
How to Identify a Pine Cone
How to Identify a Pine Cone
Why Are Pine Trees Called Evergreens?
Why Are Pine Trees Called Evergreens?
Characteristics of Pollination in Pine Trees
Characteristics of Pollination in Pine Trees
How to Identify a Persimmon Tree
How to Identify a Persimmon Tree
How to Distinguish Between the Pistil & the Stamen of a Plant
How to Distinguish Between the Pistil & the Stamen...
Pine Trees in Alaska
Pine Trees in Alaska
Garden Guides
×