KAYSVILLE, Utah (ABC4 UTAH) – The change of season is coming and some people believe excess pine cones means trees are preparing for a rough winter ahead. It’s a popular myth, but it’s just that, a myth.
“Pine trees can’t predict the future, but what they can tell us is past climate factors. Pine cones take two years to develop, so what we can tell when we see a lot of pine cones, is that they’ve had two seasons of good climates,” Jay Dee Gunnell, a Utah State University Horticulturist, said.
Conifers react to what’s happening around them and conditions from previous years. Photosynthesis occurs in tree needles and creates sugar. Sugar turns to starch and the tree can store that for its next season. Location of a pine tree can be a big player as well.
“In the mountains, the north slopes are a lot cooler, the moisture stays around a lot longer, a lot of these conifers you will find on the northern aspect of mountains,” Jay Dee Gunnell, a Utah State University Horticulturist, said.
Pine cones are similar to a fruit producing tree, and plants, just like people are looking forward to some moisture after a hot, dry summer.
“If there’s a lot of moisture in the soil, plenty of sunlight, cold conditions, then there’s a lot of energy to produce fruit,” Jay Dee Gunnell, a Utah State University Horticulturist, said.
Pine trees can have bumper crop years with increased production of cones, but there’s no indication this is one of those years. Our dry pattern for the last several years does stress pines, but trees can surprise you and get what you they need even in times of drought.
“Trees are living organisms, they can close up their stamata under the leaves and retain some of that moisture and grow a little bit slower to survive,” Jay Dee Gunnell, a Utah State University Horticulturist, said.