Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In the Pines

Cones fascinate me for some reason, all sorts of cones. This pine cone is representative of thousands that covered our driveway and areas of the forest floor this year as the result of masting- a year of heavy seed production. There are several theories on why this happens, and different species mast in particular cycles and patterns. For the pines, it happens every five years or so as a means of outsmarting seed predators like squirrels or insects. On a non-mast year, a certain number of cones are produced and many of them are part of the food chain, but in a mast year, there are many more cones produced- more than can be eaten by even the hungriest of creatures- thereby increasing the chance that at least some of the pines will take root into seedlings. Pines need a few other criteria met before they're able to get a solid start, but certainly getting past the initial forage is critical.
As I think back to the fall, I remember talking about the excessive number of acorns littering the lower yard. I don't know if it was a mast year for oak, or whether we were just tired of trying to rake the little nuts among the leaves. Many years ago when I lived in Fayette, I remember raking one year and encountering the same thing, piles of acorns underneath the dry leaves. The acrorns need more research!
"In the Pines" is a tune from a book called Twin Fiddling that occupies some space on our music shelf.

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