Conifers reproduce in the spring, similar to many other forms of life. If you look closely at some of those pine trees, spruce, or fir trees you may see it happening.
I always like finding big pinecones when I am out walking in the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes I find a cool Douglas fir cone with what look like tongues sticking out. Those cones are used to help the conifers reproduce, but how does that happen? It has something to do with those tiny, soft cones that can only be found on the tree in the spring.
What Are Conifers?
Simply put conifers are cone bearing plants and trees, meaning that they have cones for reproduction. Most conifers have long, slender needles as leaves, such as pine trees, spruce, and fir trees.
As a side note, most conifers are evergreen (meaning they have leaves all year long), but not all evergreen trees are conifers.
Conifers Reproduce By Naked Seeds
Conifers are one of the plants that reproduce by making naked seeds, which means they are gymnosperms. The other kind of plant that we talked about before are angiosperms – the flowering plants.
Conifers seeds are located inside of a cone, such as a pinecone. The seeds are called naked because they are not enclosed inside of a fruit, but are simply on the scales of the cone.
Conifers Have Two Kinds Of Cones – Male Pollen Cones & Female Cones
This is a very important part that explains how conifers reproduce. I know most of the time when I think of a conifer I think of the big pinecone. But, in fact conifers have two kinds of cones, male pollen cones and female cones.
The cones that we are most familiar with are the larger female cones that contain the seeds.
The smaller male pollen cones look quite different than the female cones. I bet you have probably seen them, but just didn’t realize what you were looking at. They are soft and located on clusters on the branches.
The male cones are only on the trees in the spring. In the spring, they grow, release their pollen, and then die off.
This is one of the reasons we all think of the large female cones when we think of pine cones. The female cones remain on the tree a long time compared to the male cones.
How Does The Pollen Move From The Male To Female Cones?
Just like how a flower gets pollinated, for conifer reproduction the pollen needs to move from the male part to the female part. In this case, that means the pollen needs to move from the male cones to the female cones. This happens by wind or insects.
In the springtime the air near conifer forests can become full of pollen as the wind blows and disperses the pollen from the male cones.
Do Trees Have Both Male And Female Cones?
Yes, usually a tree will have both male and female cones on the same tree. Oftentimes, the male cones will be located lower down on the tree and the female cones towards the top.
The reason for this is that the tree does want to pollinate itself. By receiving pollen from a different tree the tree is helping to increase its genetic diversity. For example, its like people not marrying their own brother or sister. It increases genetic diversity and will help to keep the offspring healthier.
Ideally, but not always, the pollen from the male cones will get blown and land on a female cone of a different tree.
The final step in order for conifers to reproduce is for the seeds to be dispersed, meaning they need to move away from the parent tree. There are different means of seed dispersal, including wind, water, animals, or even fire.
If the seed lands in a good spot, it will begin to grow into a new tree.
The post How Do Pine Trees And Other Conifers Reproduce? appeared first on Jake’s Nature Blog.