Which Cone Is Wetter?

Wet and dry pine cones, head on (photo by Kate St. John)

While writing about dripping pine cones I learned that mature cones open and close many times and can do so for many years.

They do this in response to wetness — even after they release their seeds, even after they’ve fallen from the tree.  In fact the open/closed status of fallen cones is a simple indication of wildfire risk because it shows the dryness of the forest floor.

So what does a wet cone look like?  Can you tell which one is wet and which is dry, above?

Here’s a view of the tail end.

Tail end of wet and dry white pine cones (photo by Kate St. John)

And here’s an overhead view.

Wet and dry white pine cones side by side (photo by Kate St. John)


By now you’ve probably guessed the answer so you’re ready to play Cone In A Bottle.

Put the closed cone in a bottle and wait for it to open.  If you want to get the cone out, do you add water or remove it?

The answer is in the comments below.

(photos by Kate St. John)

5 thoughts on “Which Cone Is Wetter?

  1. Answer to Cone In A Bottle:
    Wet cones are closed, dry cones are open. The answer to Cone In A Bottle is: put a wet cone in a bottle and don’t add water. Allow it to dry out and it will become stuck in the bottle. To get it out, fill the bottle with water and wait for the cone to close.

    Click here for more information.

  2. I knew this one! I have a pine cone collection from some gorgeous trees that used to be in my yard years ago. I put them in baskets around the house at the holiday time with a pine scent hidden in each basket. When they get dusty, I just rinse them in sudsy water in the sink. You got it…they shrink right up. When they dry, they are open again!

  3. Wow – thank you for sharing yet another fascinating fact about nature! I’m from southern NJ and am more interested in plants than birds, but I truly enjoy reading all of your posts. Your research and concise, clear, captivating writing is much appreciated!

  4. I wonder how this works? What is it inside of a pinecone that responds to the water or lack thereof? And, it amazes me that it continues to function long after the pinecone is separated from the tree. A natural smart material.

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