Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Winter Wednesday: Trees with Cones

You can also think of a tree in terms of a tree community by choosing a backyard tree to develop an ongoing list of creatures that use the tree as part of their community. Keep track of when certain birds and animals frequent the tree to see patterns. This is particularly nice for the winter if the tree is visible from a comfortable window.
There are so many things you can do in the winter with trees with cones. Observe and compare the bark of two trees in your yard.
Collect cones and compare them in your nature journal. See if you can find the seeds inside the cone.
You can also force cones to open. Cones that are closed tightly are best for this project. These will open and become glorious cones once you complete the drying process. Line an old baking sheet or baking pan with aluminum foil. This will prevent the pitch from sticking to your pan. Layer the pine cones on the aluminum foil so that they are barely touching. Be sure that your cones are only one layer deep. If you have more cones than will fit on the bottom of the pan, either do two pans at once or save the rest for a second batch. Preheat the oven on its lowest setting. You don't want the temperature to be any more than 200 degrees. Place the pan of pine cones in the oven to warm them and remove the moisture that causes them to stay closed. As the cones heat, they will begin to open. Watch the cones carefully and turn them often to prevent burning. The pitch on the pine cones will melt and create a glaze that will retain the rich brown color of the cones. Remove cones as soon as they are fully opened and allow them to cool on newspapers or right in the pan, if you prefer. Sketch in your nature journal and display in a bowl.

Compare the leaves or needles. Often you can identify a conifer tree by its needles or its cones.
"Can you match up your pinecones with the tree they came from?
After looking aound fo awhile, she said, 'It's this one, the one with the littlest pinecones.'
'This is hemlock,' I said
'I like the ones with the bigger pinecones -those, ' said Don, pointing.
'Those trees are white pines. Do you see how the branches grow horizontially? It makes it a great climbing tree...
Our little group of naturalists also identified some othe conifers, cutting samples of each to take back to the hose fo dawing. I asked them how the branches of the hemlock were arranged to shed the snow..." A Pocket Full of Pinecones, Karen Androlea
Make a cone collection by gathering and comparing cones from different evergreens. Pick a cone and write a description of it in your nature journal. Then you share the description with someone else and they have to figure out which cone you described.
Measure the needles.
"Once, with a brush and some watercolor paints, she drew some pine and fur branches. One stroke of a fine brush with green paint was all that was needed for each pine needle. She pointed out that the white pine always has five needles growing together in one cluster. One pays closer attention to things when they ae to be painted." -A Pocket Full of Pinecones, Karen Androlea

This is an update for a post from Feb. 11, 2009.


  1. Anonymous9.2.11

    What fun! I love pine cones and have one displayed on our bookshelf that I picked up and brought back from Oamaru in New Zealand. Pity there are none in equatorial Singapore or I would be curious enough to try baking a cone to force it open. :-D

    So does that mean that in winter, because it is very cold, the cones stay shut, and it is only in springtime that they start opening and scattering seeds?

  2. Nice job on the conifers/evergreens! We're doing our Winter Wednesday this afternoon...without snow finally! LOL

    I passed the Stylish Blogger Award onto you (if you like/do these things).

  3. Pine trees and pine cones everywhere! I love how you shared your information in this entry. I am just now really starting to use the caption feature on blogger.

    Always a pleasure to see what your family does for the OHC. Thank you for sharing your link.

  4. wow, i've never seen pine needles so long. it's a beautiful branch.

    thanks for the idea about opening the cones. i have a closed one in the house that i may try this on.

    you have lots of beautiful trees in your neighborhood : )


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