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Pinecones In Action

Pinecones In Action

January 23, 2020

Fall is all around us, and one of the most identifiable signs of fall is pine cones. They’re at the heart of our experiment this month. Pine cones help conifer trees reproduce and in order to do that, they actually open and close! Explore the causes of this special pinecone movement with only a few items and a few minutes.

Items Needed:

  • 3 pine cones
  • 3 jars
  • Water
  • Pencil and paper


  1. Start by placing one pinecone in each jar.
  2. Fill one jar with warm water.
  3. Fill the second jar with cold water.
  4. Leave the third jar empty as a “control” for the science experiment.
  5. Monitor the pine cones to see what happens. After 5 minutes, you should notice a change. Make notes about the appearance of the pine cones. What happened to the pine cones in the water? What’s the difference between the pine cones in the water and the one in “air”?
  6. When you’re finished observing the change in the pine cones, empty the water from the jars and watch what happens.

Why Do Pine Cones Open and Close?

The scales on the pine cones respond to humidity. When the air is warm and dry, the cones will open in order to release their seeds. If the weather is wet and cold, the pine cone scales swell up and close to protect the seeds. Seeds released on dry days have a better chance of a large range of dispersal and future success.

Expand on this experiment by trying different types of liquid to see how the pine cones respond.