Thursday, October 2, 2014
This year the Korean fir Abies koreana in our garden has produced its best cone crop ever. They usually stay on the tree well into winter but over the last week they've begun to disintegrate, with more being reduced every day to a spiky spindle. I thought it might be the dry autumn that was causing the cones' premature destruction but this morning I discovered the real cause.....
.... and this is the culprit. I watched for half an hour while it made made repeated visits, pulling the cones apart.
This is what it was after - the seeds, which have purple papery wings. There are two seeds attached to each of those fan-shaped woody cone scales.
The bird is totally obsessed with plundering the food store that it has discovered - so much so that it allows us to approach quite closely to watch. At the current rate it will have trashed all the cones within about a week.
Korean fir is an ideal specimen conifer for a small garden, producing a reliable cone crop when just a few years old. Ours is growing in a very large pot and doubles up as a Christmas tree. The attractive cones are held upright on the branches and are purple when they first develop, ripening to brown and topped with very fragrant resin. And, as it turns out, excellent food for coal tits and if brings them into the garden, that's a plus.