Sep 07 2012
As I’ve said before I live in a deciduous place so the ways of conifers are sometimes mysterious.
Take pine sap for instance. My annual visits to Maine have taught me to check before sitting down under a white pine. Mainers know that their state flower drips sap (yes, white pine cones are the State Flower of Maine) so they don’t put lawn furniture in the drip zone. I had some unfortunate experiences with pine sap before I learned this.
Only the female cones cause this problem. Male cones are small pollen-laden structures that appear in the spring at the base of new growth. They release huge amounts of pollen, then fall off the tree.
The female cones form on the branch tips and capture the wind borne pollen. It takes two years for them to mature into the familiar woody cone that opens when dry to release the seeds. Along the way they’re green and drippy.
Why do immature cones drip sap?
That question spawned this post but I haven’t been able to find the answer.
However I have some theories.
- Theory 1: The cone has to dry out as it matures. Maybe dripping is part of that process.
- Theory 2: Pine sap has insecticidal properties. Maybe the oozing sap keeps insects away from the developing seeds.
- Theory 3: Maybe the sap also keeps squirrels away from the immature cones.
I don’t know why they drip, but the sap certainly keeps me away from them.
p.s. If you know why pine cones drip sap, please leave a comment and let me know. It’s driving me nuts!
(photo by Steven J. Baskauf from Vanderbilt University Bioimages)