if needles are food making machines .....

ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5March 18, 2014

and if they were damaged this winter.... thereby theoretically reducing the sunlight they can process to the plants benefit ....

then they will not be able to add the food to the plant as they normally would.. for the 1 to 3 years they usually hang on .. what else could their job be????

if so.. then we have stressed plants ... yes???? no????

ergo.. ipso.. presto ... shouldnt we be seeing a plethora of cone buds this fall ... and perhaps a monstrous cone show.. next year????

and am i worng to say a pollen cone is no different in this hypothetical?????

in very simplistic terms [so resin can understand.. lol] .... wouldnt this winter be a trigger ... an 'event' for increased cones????

what do all you tree doctors think ... you collectors too!!!!


ps: he is just sitting there.. minding his own business.. and poweee .. lol .. actually i just wanted to make sure he chimed in ... but hoping he can dumb down his answer so i can retain it .... though i do want everyone's input.. for sure ....

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Yes: less foliage should result in less growth than there would have been otherwise.

Until the plant builds itself back up to where it was before.

You may not notice much difference, being unable to see what might have been.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 1:17PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

The bigger question is how much damage the roots suffered. They are going to send that energy back up to the shoots/buds. Bottom line the damage to the needles is somewhat irrelevant for this years growth. It may impact new buds and secondary growth spurts as this years damage will effect root development.

I can snap off the shoots of some of my spruces they are so dried out. Sun, sun go away!

Off my rocker or on point?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:11PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Also be aware that trees that suffer crown damage will divert resources from root growth to restore the crown, just as trees with damaged roots (i.e. transplanting) will divert resources from crown growth to regenerate the root system. So damaged foilage this year is likely to result in increase crown growth for a period of time, while total growth (roots AND crown) is reduced for a period of time.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:19PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

what about a mast year [if i can use the nut tree term here] .... for cones next year..

any opinion on that ...???

otherwise... here in ground freeze area ... i will have to mull daves root damage theory .... the ground has been frozen since before dec... with 2 or 3 feet of snow... thereby protected from wind.. no wind chill [lets not argue whether a tree can FEEL wind] ... and presumably ... not drying due to sun/wind .... and presuming zone appropriate stock ... i dont know why i would have any root damage ... am i missing something here?????

did your soil never freeze dave??? ... or doesnt it???? .. no snow cover????


    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:05PM
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Ive seen native pines here cone and produce good seed when you get back to back good years. Native maples for me seem to produce a good seed crop every other year, irrespective of conditions. Root pruning a wisteria in my back yard produced a ridiculously large crop of exploding seed pods. Genetics, cultural conditions, damage to the plant are all variables because they alter the balance of hormones, auxins, whatever, inside the plant and cause it to try and reproduce. But I think there are so many different variables it will be hard to generalize. My guess is that your guess of a good cone year will be very true for some plants and not true for others.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:33PM
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pinetree30(Sierra Westside)

Damaged portions of crowns don't attract "healing" nutrients from healthy areas. Actively growing portions of the crown do attract nutrients imported from elsewhere.
Bumper cone crops being stimulated by stress is a myth. Nice story, no evidence. Been tracking that for many years -- fits nicely into the romantic notion that a tree will do what it must to get out its next generation of progeny when it "knows" it's a goner.
As with driplines and tree senescence, and other lovely unproven ideas, caveat emptor.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 4:59PM
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On the other hand, I would not be surprised to learn that the reverse is true-that a heavy cone year might result in lesser vegetative growth the following year. No, I won't be listing my regression analysis in this post, just some things I've observed.

Right around the time I joined this forum (Early 2000's, I guess), we went through two or three hotter and dryer-than-normal years in a row, and it was during the latter two of those years that we had the most excessive cone production, primarily on spruce, that I have ever witnessed. The years following this event were times of very poor quality appearance in those same trees. Colorado and "Black Hills" variant of white were most affected, Norways (Of course) the least, although they too looked a little ragged. And some never climbed out of it. There was something else too; The area where pollen cones gave way to "female" cones looked especially tough on these trees, this zone of transition, roughly half way up the crown. In many cases, that area became nearly devoid of functional needles.

Right around then too, USDA and other sources were talking about "SNEED" or sudden needle drop (in spruce). I will admit, I lost track of where that went but I do believe one or more newish foliar pathogen syndromes were identified somewhere in that mess.

Maybe this is a little too convoluted to really mean anything. But I recall that crazy cone year, and things did go downhill after it.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:54PM
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pinetree30(Sierra Westside)

Actually there is a lot of evidence in the form of studies done generally in the 1950s and 60s that large cone crops result in narrower annual rings due to the strong sink effect of developing cones. In other words, they attract nutrients from the vegetative parts of the tree.
In spruce and many other conifers the primordia, or earliest stage of the cones, are laid down in buds formed the year prior to those cones appearance in the spring. In pines, it is 2 years prior. No general "trigger" has been identified as setting off a heavy cone crop despite --what? 150 years of research?
This must be telling us something. And of course the smart researchers who would otherwise be trying to figure this out are, instead, all flocking to molecular-level studies, leaving the old unsolved problems behind, still unsolved.
For some years, when multiple regression analyses were the way to make a reputation, people were coming up with such findings as "cones are correlated with rainfall 17 months prior to cone appearance" or temperature 12 months prior or maximum daily temperature during the previous April and May, or...you know, whatever the computer spit out. None of that ever made biological sense, and every species was different.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:18PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

"Bumper cone crops being stimulated by stress is a myth. Nice story, no evidence. Been tracking that for many years -- fits nicely into the romantic notion that a tree will do what it must to get out its next generation of progeny when it "knows" it's a goner. "

I am SO glad to read that! My Arborist friend has been telling me for years that a large Western Hemlock I have is dying because of the large cone crop it has every year. He even points out all the broken off branches that ice has broken. On one side, almost all the branches broke off in a domino effect.
I've been telling him the tree is looking better and better every year and way better than when I first knew him. I can't convince him otherwise, he knows it all. After all, he's got the credentials of a Certified Arborist. I have quit trying to tell him the facts as I know them. Beliefs based on myths are hard to disprove.
It's looking better and better because I'm continually adding aged woodchips as a mulch he brings. As the roots grow up in to the mulch, I add more. Plus, I've cut most of the competing trees down around it.
Thank you, Pinetree.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 7:34PM
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Well, to be fair, the fact that you can't prove something doesn't mean it isn't true. Say you wanted to prove "stress causes this species of pine tree to produce more cones." How exactly could you design a real experiment to test that? First we need to agree as to what "stress" is. Then you need several lots of sexually mature, genetically identical, specimens of that pine tree that have received the exact same cultural treatment.... It would take several years, cost a fortune....

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:06PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Many of my spruce that I bareroot or planted b&b in 2011 and 2012 produced an excessive amount of cones in 2013 after the drought of 2012.

Just an observation...couple examples below.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 9:36PM
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"On the other hand, I would not be surprised to learn that the reverse is true-that a heavy cone year might result in lesser vegetative growth the following year."

Another reason for this, in addition to the sink effect, is that when cone buds are set, they occupy space which might otherwise contain a vegetative bud. The following spring, you get a cone instead of a shoot at that spot.

It should not be hard to prove that stress causes heavy cone crops, if indeed that were true. At a minimum, it should be easy to prove or disprove that there's a correlation. Proving the correlation would not prove the causal relationship, but disproving the correlation would certainly demonstrate no causality. What am I trying to say? It's not good enough to say "this plant was stressed one year and the next year produced a heavy cone crop, therefore stress induces coning". If stress induces heavy cone crops, there should be some impetus in favor a a heavy cone crop every time the plant experiences stress. Of course, other affects may be layered on top of this and this would be uncovered in the analysis. And if we cannot agree what stress is, then we don't deserve todiscuss this... so let's assume that we do.

So what does it all mean? Ken, you may very well have a bumper crop of cones next year, but if you do it will be unrelated to the stress of the cold winter.

On another note, needles are most efficient at photosynthesis their first year once fully grown, and become less and less efficient in subsequent years. So long as this year's growth is robust, your plants' capacity for making food may not drop off as much as you fear. Even if they had not gone through the rough winter, the older needles would only be producing a fraction of the food produced by this year's needles by summer's end anyway.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 9:38AM
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......and, "stress" is a normal occurrence, and what we're really talking about is "strain", the point of departure between the two. Convoluted? You bet!

I think many trees were undergoing drought strain, even though I've never once heard those two words strung together like that, during that time span I referenced. Heck, even two summers back was considered moderate to severe drought across S. Wisconsin.

I'll tell you what though, especially those of you inclined towards science, right across this state is a long-held zone of transition called "the tension zone" running roughly S.E. to N.W. if you will, the area to the north being considered well, north of the tension zone. And due to the orientation of this diagonal line, many locales near Lake Michigan, nearly all the way to Milwaukee, are also "north of the tension Zone". Turns out there's something to it. I live in a city which lies directly in this transitional ecotone. We've got groves of 300-year-old oaks in some parks, tamaracks and white cedar in other spots. You can almost see the line in action! So along comes this supposedly abnormally cold winter. I can honestly state that, at least where my tree farm is, 60 miles north of where I live, conifers could not look better coming through a winter. There's absolutely no winter burn, no off coloration, everything looks prime. So if this was supposed to be a "stress event", then I'm going to have to say stress, as such, is of little impact. Then too, summer and fall rains were copious in that region as well. This is the place where my 4-years-in-the-ground-from-seedling Norway spruce grew nearly 5 feet last summer.

Sometimes, I think you just have to be in a good zone for what you're trying to do. Not possible, of course, for every conifer hobbyist to up and move, but at least should you be contemplating a larger-scale project, it might just make sense to relocate!

Incidentally, the northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) which comprise a great deal of my woods up there seem to produce large amounts of viable seed year in and year out. Not sure what it would take for them to not do that. White pine are perhaps more cyclic.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 5:50PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


so ..... if i do have a big cone year.. i will not be able to differentiate between a cold winter.. and two years of high heat and basically.. drought ...

go figure... lol ..

thx for the science guys.. i read thru it all ... though i cant promise i will retain it... lol ...


    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 7:35AM
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whaas, what are the two spruce you have pictures of? I love the cones.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 9:02PM
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whaas, man I would like to know the name of those spruce. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 9:35PM
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Inge, not sure about the second pic, but that first one is most def. a fir, what with the upright cones.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 5:01PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I'm showing Picea pungens 'Hoopsii' and Picea omorika 'Bruns'

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 6:51PM
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