Part of what I love about conifers are their cones. Conifers not only provide year-round color, texture, and interest because of their foliage, but the little treasures of their cones can also add to the display throughout the year. In early spring, most visibly will be the male pollen cones. Frequently these small cones will be found near the ends of last-years foliage just prior to or during the current seasons spring flush of growth. With colors from deep, rich bluish-purple to hot pinks and scarlet reds, the male cones make quite a display before their pollen matures and is distributed around the local area by the wind and rain.
Abies numidica male pollen cones in spring:
Shortly after the male cones make their first appearance, the female, seed-bearing cones begin to develop making themselves ready for the explosion of pollen that is soon to come. After pollination, the female cones grow and swell and many begin to ooze pitch before finally drying, turning brown, opening and dropping their seeds – sometimes over the span of two seasons. It’s really all quite a process to observe.
Abies koreana ‘Silberlocke’ female seed cone in spring:
I encourage you to keep an eye out for the flowering cycle of the conifers and see what wondrous little treasures you might have missed in your own garden.
Photos provided by my friends at Iseli Nursery.