We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Pine Cone?

Niki Acker
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At HomeQuestionsAnswered, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A pine cone is an organ of the pine tree containing its reproductive structures. Pine trees are only one of the conifer, or "cone-bearing," plants; others include cedars, firs, cypresses, and redwoods. Pine cones, like the reproductive organs of other conifers, come in male and female varieties. In most species of pine, male and female cones grow on the same tree. The trees of some species have cones predominantly of only one sex, with a few of the opposite sex.

Pinus is a genus of trees with about 115 species. While all produce cones, their size and appearance differ slightly, and male and female cones also look different from each other. The image that most people associate with the pine cone, a woody, scaled structure, is actually the female structure. Male cones are smaller, more herbaceous, and shorter lived.

The male cone is usually no more than 2 inches (5 cm) long and lives for only a few months in the spring or the autumn, depending on the species of pine. It is covered with microsporangia, or pollen sacs. After it releases its pollen, it falls off the tree.

After the male cones release their pollen, it travels by wind to the female pine cones. After pollination, the female cone takes one and a half to three years to mature. Fertilization, the fusion of the sperm in the pollen with the ovary in the female seed, takes place a year after pollination. There are two seeds on each fertile scale of the female cone; the scales at either end of the cone are too small to support seeds.

Female cones are much hardier than their male counterparts, as they are designed to last until the seeds are dispersed. In some species, fertilized seeds are stored for years. Mature female cones are typically 1 to 24 inches (3 to 60 cm) in length.

In most pine species, mature female cones open to release their seeds when they reach maturity. Usually, the seeds have wings and are dispersed by the air. In some species of pine, however, the seeds have only a vestigial wing and are dispersed by birds. Some pines require the birds to break the cones open in order for the seeds to be released.

Some species, known as fire climax pines, store fertilized seeds inside pine cones that can only be opened by the heat of a forest fire. When a fire destroys living trees, fire climax pines release their seeds to repopulate the forest.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a HomeQuestionsAnswered editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By anon950944 — On May 13, 2014

A pine cone is a beautiful thing.

By Kristee — On Jan 23, 2013

I like to make pine cone wreaths around the holidays. Some people prefer the more natural look of leaving them unpainted, but I like to spray paint them silver.

They just look so much more festive that way. They look great on wreaths with either cedar branches or pine needles that have been painted white.

I also like to put a few in a basket with some small red glass ornaments. The red is a really nice contrast to the silver.

Once the season is over, I can store them carefully in a box with tissue paper and use them again the next year. I've been using the ones I have now for six years, and they are still intact. I think the spray paint has preserved them.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 23, 2013
@healthy4life – You've probably seen them but just didn't know it at the time. They look like brown striped insect wings, and the first time I saw one, I really thought it came from a dead bug.

If you have pine trees, you'll probably see these on the ground somewhere around the area. You generally can't see them by looking in a pine cone, because once the cones have fallen, they have already opened and released all their seed.

My dad said that each bristle of a pine cone can hold two seeds. I could see the spots where the seed had been, because they were a different color.

By healthy4life — On Jan 22, 2013

I don't think I've ever seen a pine cone seed. When I was little, I used to think that each sharp piece of the pine cone was a seed, but now I know better.

What do the seeds look like? I know the article says they have wings, but do they look wispy like a feather or more rough like the pine cone itself?

By Oceana — On Jan 21, 2013
It amazes me that there is a pine tree that waits until its seeds are really needed to release them. It must come in really handy to have all those seeds suddenly available after a forest fire!
By galen84basc — On Oct 15, 2010

I have a friend who specializes in pine cone art -- not just wreaths and stuff like that, but glass pine cones, pine cone sculptures, etc.

It's actually really fascinating what she sees in them. I mean, I pass pine cones on the ground every day and don't even think about them, but to my friend, they're art.

I'm just glad that she can create things to show the rest of us what she sees.

By TunaLine — On Oct 15, 2010

How do pine cones differ between trees? For instance, would the pine cone from a spruce pine tree differ significantly from a white pine tree cone?

I have always thought that white pine tree cones were stickier than others, but perhaps that's just the pines in my yard producing a lot of sap.

Is there any real difference like that, or is a pine cone essentially always a pine cone?

By zenmaster — On Oct 15, 2010

There are a lot of pine cone crafts you can make too. Although a lot of people only associate them with Christmas crafts, a nice pine cone wreath as decor can look good all throughout the fall and winter.

Another nice little thing to do with pinecones is to make scented pine cones for the fireplace.

They can add such a nice scent to your fire, and are so easy to make. Definitely a very useful piece of nature.

By ellemae — On Jun 29, 2009

Colorado Blue spruce and Pondarosa Pines in the mountains this year are heavily laden with pine cones. Does this indicate any changes in the cycle other than and very moist Spring?

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a HomeQuestionsAnswered editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide...
Learn more
HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.