Wildlife and Other Sightings: Fallen Green Cones of the Giant Sequoia

September 15, 2012 Posted by: MS - Mather District Interpretive Ranger

Fallen green cones of the Giant Sequoia
Sequoiadendron giganteum
    
green sequoia cones

August 26, 2012
Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias
Gusty winds recently caused many green giant sequoia cones to fall to the ground in the Tuolumne Grove and I noticed a Douglas squirrel carrying one away in its mouth.  

In a few weeks, these fallen cones will have dried and opened their scales to release the 200 or so seeds contained within. The released seeds can only successfully germinate and thrive where they find bare mineral soil, ample sunlight, and ample soil moisture. Fire helps create the first two conditions by burning away the underbrush. Soil moisture is dependent on local topography and the total amount of available ground water coming from rain and snow annually. Springtime is the optimum season for seed germination.   

Many people believe that seed release from giant sequoias can only occur after fire heats the cones. However, seeds can also be released by two other mechanisms:  Physical shaking and breakage of branches or cone stems in high winds;  and by the actions of certain animals.

The Douglas squirrel (Tamlasciurus douglasi), also known as the Chickaree, eats the cones of pines and firs, but it prefers the fleshy scales of giant sequoia cones. Though a few seeds are eaten by the squirrel, most fall to the ground in this process. The squirrel may indirectly help in seed dispersal far from the tree, if the green cone it has carried to its nest later dries out and drops some of its seeds. However, the primary means of seed dispersal is by wind from dried cones which are still on the tree after some mechanism has cut off its nourishing connections with the main tree. Wind-borne seeds may travel about 600 feet from the parent tree.

 A small long horned beetle (Phymatodes nitidus) indirectly helps release giant sequoia seeds. The larvae of this beetle bore into the central axis of the cone, severing the cone's water supply. The cone dries, opens its scales, and releases its seeds.

wildlife




5 Comments Comments Icon

  1. Anonymous - CA
    January 31, 2016 at 03:13

    I wonder, if its leaves or roots are edible, will its substance create an impact in the human growth hormone production. Isn't it that you are what you eat? I thought that there must be something in its leaves, branches and roots or bark that plays a role in producing a tremendous height that these trees are know for. There has got to be one essential factor that makes them as they are. I'm thinking, if I were to plant these in the Philippines, will they survive the hot climate there? Nevada is a very hot state, while it doesn't snow in California, and so these trees thrive on both snowy and hot weather. But will it survive the hot Philippines climate? We have pine trees in the cold part (Baguio City) and there are lots of pine trees growing there, but I have never seen any below that hilly city or any other surrounding provinces of that city. Maybe that is an indication that they can only be planted in the cold areas, with or without snow. I figure, pine trees belong to the family of the sequoias, because they both bear cones, which look very much alike. The reason I'm asking of the climate survival of these trees in the rainy, but hot country like the Philippines is attributed to the fact that trees help in the absorption of water during times of floods and heavy rainfalls. I thought this might solve one of the country's greatest problems. But OMG, how one can occupy a small piece of land, but we can never overlook its beauty. It is really something to behold. I have never seen one and am planning to travel to both Yosemite and Nevada to experience the feeling of seeing and touching them for the first time. The truth is, I have only learned of their unbelievable heights and measures, just this month, when I was searching for images/pictures of beautiful trees to send to cheer up my lonely friend. But I found these trees and was so shocked and in disbelief of how great and tall and wide they are. I felt so very much fascinated by them since then. I apologize for this lengthy comment/s.

  2. Anonymous - CA
    January 31, 2016 at 03:13

    I wonder, if its leaves or roots are edible, will its substance create an impact in the human growth hormone production. Isn't it that you are what you eat? I thought that there must be something in its leaves, branches and roots or bark that plays a role in producing a tremendous height that these trees are know for. There has got to be one essential factor that makes them as they are. I'm thinking, if I were to plant these in the Philippines, will they survive the hot climate there? Nevada is a very hot state, while it doesn't snow in California, and so these trees thrive on both snowy and hot weather. But will it survive the hot Philippines climate? We have pine trees in the cold part (Baguio City) and there are lots of pine trees growing there, but I have never seen any below that hilly city or any other surrounding provinces of that city. Maybe that is an indication that they can only be planted in the cold areas, with or without snow. I figure, pine trees belong to the family of the sequoias, because they both bear cones, which look very much alike. The reason I'm asking of the climate survival of these trees in the rainy, but hot country like the Philippines is attributed to the fact that trees help in the absorption of water during times of floods and heavy rainfalls. I thought this might solve one of the country's greatest problems. But OMG, how one can occupy a small piece of land, but we can never overlook its beauty. It is really something to behold. I have never seen one and am planning to travel to both Yosemite and Nevada to experience the feeling of seeing and touching them for the first time. The truth is, I have only learned of their unbelievable heights and measures, just this month, when I was searching for images/pictures of beautiful trees to send to cheer up my lonely friend. But I found these trees and was so shocked and in disbelief of how great and tall and wide they are. I felt so very much fascinated by them since then. I apologize for this lengthy comment/s.

  3. Anonymous - CA
    January 31, 2016 at 03:12

    I wonder, if its leaves or roots are edible, will its substance create an impact in the human growth hormone production. Isn't it that you are what you eat? I thought that there must be something in its leaves, branches and roots or bark that plays a role in producing a tremendous height that these trees are know for. There has got to be one essential factor that makes them as they are. I'm thinking, if I were to plant these in the Philippines, will they survive the hot climate there? Nevada is a very hot state, while it doesn't snow in California, and so these trees thrive on both snowy and hot weather. But will it survive the hot Philippines climate? We have pine trees in the cold part (Baguio City) and there are lots of pine trees growing there, but I have never seen any below that hilly city or any other surrounding provinces of that city. Maybe that is an indication that they can only be planted in the cold areas, with or without snow. I figure, pine trees belong to the family of the sequoias, because they both bear cones, which look very much alike. The reason I'm asking of the climate survival of these trees in the rainy, but hot country like the Philippines is attributed to the fact that trees help in the absorption of water during times of floods and heavy rainfalls. I thought this might solve one of the country's greatest problems. But OMG, how one can occupy a small piece of land, but we can never overlook its beauty. It is really something to behold. I have never seen one and am planning to travel to both Yosemite and Nevada to experience the feeling of seeing and touching them for the first time. The truth is, I have only learned of their unbelievable heights and measures, just this month, when I was searching for images/pictures of beautiful trees to send to cheer up my lonely friend. But I found these trees and was so shocked and in disbelief of how great and tall and wide they are. I felt so very much fascinated by them since then. I apologize for this lengthy comment/s.

  4. Yosemite National Park
    June 20, 2014 at 04:18

    @pete, the cones are often green when they fall to the ground.

  5. pete
    June 20, 2014 at 03:32

    greetings. this is actually very helpful. so are you saying that in the natural order of things, the cones are fairly green when they fall and hit the ground? they dont look brown, and the small petals have not yet opened? Im just wondering if the green cones in your picture are pretty typical of how things work, or they were knocked off prematurely by the strong winds?? thanx, Pete

 
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