Saturday, January 23, 2010

Trees of the Boardwalk - White spruce 1

White spruce cones are longer than the short, almost round cones of black spruce. The female cones are near the top of the tree and the smaller male cones are lower down. The male pollen is blown by the wind to the female flower structures, and having the males in the lower story helps ensure the pollen goes to other trees, preventing self-fertilization.

White spruce cone crops are somewhat erratic, occuring every 5-7 years or so. When a bumper crop comes along maturing cones cover the upper branches, and they spark a bonanza for wildlife. Red squirrels clip the cones in a constant fall. Then the squirrels race to store the cones before they ripen and start to dry out and open, spilling their seed cargo. Seed-eating birds appear from nowhere to feast on the cones still attached to the trees. Seed specialists often seen at the Boardwalk when spruce seeds are abundant are white-winged crossbill, pine siskin, and pine grosbeak.

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