Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Tree-spotter's Guide to Conifer Cones: 2




It's not easy to get your hands on intact cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani cones because they tend to remain firmly attached to the tree and, at the end of their three year ripening period, break up without falling to the ground. This cone has reached the stage where it is about to disintegrate and is about 8 cm. long. The best way to obtain a cedar of Lebanon cone is to check out trees after gales - a broken branch will often have cones attached. Young cones have a lovely cedar fragrance. The tree has been grown in Britain since 1638  but most date from after 1740 when a famously severe frost killed many of the young trees - so the oldest specimens here are still quite youthful, compared with trees in their native Lebanon that are speculated to be up to 2500 years old. The tree is portrayed on the Lebanese flag and is protected in its native country, where only ten small natural populations remain.




































This is a ripe Sitka spruce Picea sitchenis cone, which has thin scales that have a crinkly edge. It comes from the North West coast of North America and, like the Douglas fir, it was discovered by Archibald Menzies and introduced into Britain by David Douglas in 1831. It has been an extremely successful plantation tree in upland Britain and cones prolifically, but sadly closely-spaced plantation trees can never display the full majesty of this species, which can grow to 60m. tall and become very handsome as an isolated specimen. This cone is about 8cm. long.


More pictures of cones here


For more posts on this blog on tree ID - buds, bark, flowers or fruits - click here

6 comments:

  1. The Cedar of Lebanon is a beautiful tree as are the cones. I love the perfume of the wood. I was unaware of the Sitka, so will do some investigating, thank you Phil.

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  2. I've always liked the smell of cedar toffeeapple - reminds me of the smell of our school pencils when I was a kid. There out to be nostalgic spray-on cedarwood fragrance for keyboards...

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  3. I have a small piece of cedar which I plane occasionally just for the aroma. Never seen the cone before - do the seeds germinate well?

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  4. I think they probably do Rob. The young trees are conical and only later develop their spreading crowns. Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was an enthusiastic user of cedar of Lebanon in his planting schemes. We've a Korean fir that has beautifully scented resin in the garden - ideal for scenting tissues if you've got a cold....

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  5. One correction - cedar cones take one year from pollination to seed maturity (12 months; October to October a year later, not 3 years); see Int. Dendrol. Soc. Yearb. 1993: 43-46

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  6. That's true Conifers - thanks for pointing that out. Maybe I shouldn't have used the word 'ripening' - what I meant was that the cones tend to break up in their third year, so if you want an intact mature cone a second year one is best.

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