Pine cone ponderings

About 25 or more years ago, I went down to the pine forest near Red Hill and gathered a bag full of the most beautiful, large, fully open pine cones to put around the tub in which the Christmas tree stands. To this day, they decorate the floor for two weeks over the Christmas period, as no one will allow a fake tree in this house and there is nothing more resonant with the season than the fresh smell of pine resin as you enter the room.

I ran out of suet balls for the birds, and remembered our hike leader collecting pine cones on some of our walks for a friend who put peanut butter and seeds in them for his garden birds, and I remembered the pine cones waiting patiently in the cupboard for Christmas. Ideal for the purpose. I smothered the evenly spaced scales with peanut butter and hung it from a beam on the deck. In no time it was covered with birds pecking at the peanut butter (sugar-free and no salt) and soon it was a bare cone again. I then replaced the suet balls and the pine cone has hung, seedless, nearby for the birds to perch on. 

I take a lot of bird photos, sky and cloud photos and passing ship photos (no, really?), and so I am often outside near the pine cone and after a while I noticed that the scales were moving – closing inwards in cold, wet weather, standing open in moderate temperatures, and drooping downwards in extreme heat. Considering that this pine cone was picked up on the forest floor around 25 years ago and is technically ‘dead’, I think it is fascinating that it displays barometer-like indicators of humidity. Anyone know any more about this feature of a pine cone?

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