Best time to harvest cones?

kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)July 22, 2009

I was at a nursery looking at ornamental pine trees. While I was examining a cone on one tree, it came off in my hand, so I decided to stick it in my pocket. The cone is fully closed. Will I be able to get viable seeds from it, and, if so, when/how should I harvest them?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

might help to know what kind of pine ...

my sylvestris ... the cones that started this spring .... will open next spring.. on the first 70 degree day ... and then proceed to sprout all over the yard ...

i know you can speed up the stratification or ripening .... but then ..

i presume it is an issue of whether or not the seed was on the tree.. long enough to mature to viability ...


    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 2:50PM
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Different trees may have different times when their cones can be harvested. The only cones I have collected for seed are Norway spruce cones.

The way to harvest Norway spruce seed is to wait until the squirrels cut the cones down from the trees--this can be as early as the first or second week in August. They are at this point very, very green. The seeds may not, at this point be fully mature. What I did was to put the cones in a protected place, and spread them out so the sun can get to them. I don't know how necessary it is, but I turned them occasionally. In about two months they dried out and the seeds could be shaken out. I gave them to a professor at the U of MD, and he had them grown. As far as I know, the viability was very high.

So, at this point, for the one cone you have, set it somewhere where it can get good sunlight. If the seeds are not already mature enough, this will help them finish the maturation process. When the cone is dry, and the scales have separated, you should be able to shake the seeds out. Then give them a try.

Hint: if you put them in a small jar tightly sealed--not too much air inside--and keep them in the refrigerator, they can remain viable for many years--maybe 15 or more.

Stratifying them is a different process, but to store them, keep them dry in a jar in the refirgerator.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 2:59PM
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Can you post a photo? Identification is important.

Apart from species which hold their seeds in closed cones for long periods (some pines, some cypresses, and Sequoiadendron), there aren't any conifers which have freshly mature seeds at this time of year in the northern hemisphere.

How easily did the cone "come off"? Did you have to pull hard? Or was it very easy? If the former, chances are (unless it is one of the species retaining closed cones) the seeds won't be ripe, if the latter, chances are the cone is old and empty.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 4:22PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

It's a Picea orientalis aureospicata 'Eve.' The cone came away with a little tugging. Can you tell anything from this picture or tell me whether and how I can get viable seeds from this cone?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 5:51PM
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Yep, that's a Picea orientalis cone.

Bad news for you is that the cone is still a long way short of ripe, the seeds won't be viable yet. Cones still on the tree will be ripe in October.

If you do get any additional cones then, note that seedlings you grow from them will just be the species in general, as cultivars don't breed true.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 3:46AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Thanks, pineresin-
Does that mean that I should toss the cone, or is there a chance it will produce viable seeds if I just wait for it to dry and open up?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 3:44PM
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Toss it. If you'd picked it in September, it might have finished ripening off the tree, but not in July, no way. Sorry!


    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 7:14PM
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