Pine cones like volcanoes

4 September 2013
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4 September 2013, Comments: 0

No sooner did we start talking about this amazing pine cone than we began to discover that it has even more marvellous properties. So today we’re going to tell you about some of the more curious aspects of the Canary Island pine tree’s serotinous pine cone.

As we already told you, the Canary Island pine tree has various different types of pine cones. Some of them are common or garden and open when they mature which is about three years after they start to grow. But other cones are serotinous which means that they remain closed for a long, long time and they only open once they have been subjected to really high temperatures – after there has been a fire, for example.

Some years ago a team of researchers who were studying these special Canary Island pine cones came up with some really interesting results.

First of all, they discovered that although this type of pine cone is found quite frequently and indeed in abundance in the pine forests, they vary considerably from one tree to another. In other words, on some trees the majority of the pine cones are serotinous but on other trees, barely 5% of them are.

Another curious fact is that for them to open, the serotinous pine cones of the Canary Island pine tree need a temperature of around 65ºC, much higher than that of other Mediterranean pines – the Aleppo pine tree for example, which opens at 51ºC or the Southern Yellow pine which opens at 46ºC.

The researchers believe that this Canary Island pine tree has developed this type of pine cone as a way of adapting to the volcanic eruptions which served to form the Canary Islands. They think that there were so many eruptions that this pine tree was forced to generate this type of pine cone in order to improve its chances of survival. As a matter of fact, there have been more than 20 volcanic eruptions in the last six centuries, that’s one every 30 years – and we’re talking about a pretty quiet period!

Something else that took our fancy was how when they were heating the pine cones as part of their experiments, bubbles would appear on the cones and then they’d burst open with a load crack, just like a volcano erupting, ready to spew its flying pine nuts into the air.

The more we scratch the surface of the Canary Island pine tree, the more curious things we begin to discover! Watch this space!

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