Try This: Super Pine Cones

Forests, parks, and neighborhood streets are full of old and young trees. How did the young trees begin? Trees make seeds that grow into saplings. The saplings then grow into trees. Some seeds are fruit—such as apples or cherries. Other seeds are nuts, such as acorns and chestnuts.

But seeds face many dangers. Animals like to eat fruit and nuts. And high winds and heavy rain can make seeds go bad or fall off the tree too soon. So trees have evolved clever ways to keep their seeds safe from hungry animals and bad weather so that the seeds can eventually find good soil and grow. For example, chestnuts have husks around them that break open when the chestnut fruit is ripe and falls from the tree.

QUESTION

How do pine trees protect their seeds from bad weather?

WHAT YOU NEED

Dry pinecones

Large bowl

Water

Paper towel

Hair dryer

WHAT TO DO

  • Find some pinecones outside or at the store.

  • Put the cones in a bowl. Cover them with water.

  • Now watch! What happens to the pinecones?

  • Take the cones out and put them on a paper towel to dry.

  • Use a hair dryer to help the cones dry faster. What happens?

WHAT'S HAPPENING

A pine tree hides its seeds in cones—a shell that can expand and contract with water. When the cone gets wet, the shell shrinks, keeping the inner seeds nice and dry. Then when the cone dries, the shell expands, opening up to let the wind blow the seeds away so they can grow somewhere else.

Some scientists believe that pinecones can play a role in forecasting the weather. This is because cones open and close depending on the humidity in the air. If a cone is open, the air must be dry so the upcoming weather could stay dry. But if a cone is closed, then there's already moisture in the air and the upcoming weather could bring rain. Look at some pinecones near where you live. Are they open or closed? What is the weather outside? Are the pinecones accurate in their forecast?

FUN FACT

Johnny Appleseed

There once was a man who planted apple trees all over the Midwest in the late 1700s. His nickname was Johnny Appleseed, but his real name was John Chapman. He was born on September 26, 1774.

Cool Quotes

We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.

—Marie Curie

YOUR NOTES

Draw a picture of your pinecones, first when they're dry and then when they're wet.

seed: a grain or fruit that enables a plant to reproduce itself.

Bubbles and Butter

Almost every day we eat something that a teeny tiny organism helps to make. To learn something about this little critter, solve the Falling Letter puzzle below. Figure out where to put the letters in each column. The letters all fit in the boxes under their own column, but not always in the same order! The black boxes are the spaces between words.

Whirly Seeds

Certain trees have seeds with a unique shape. They are designed to be caught by the wind and twirl away!

To make your own whirly seed, use a ruler to connect each number pair with a straight solid line.

Then, connect each letter pair with a straight dotted line.

Cut around the edge of the pattern to remove the puzzle from the page.

To complete the Whirly Seed, cut on the solid lines, and fold as directed on the dotted lines.

Drop your paper seed from a (safe) high place!

NOTE: If you don't want to cut up the book, make a copy of this page first.

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