Why doesn’t my Ponderosa trees get pine cones? I have five of them about 10 years old and about 15′ to 20′ tall.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Donald in Colorado: Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) is a conifer that is native to western North America. Some years are better than others in terms of cone production and this is not fully understood, but we do know that production depends on age as well as elevation and climate. It may be that your evergreens are not mature enough to produce cones yet. Even though they are around 10 years old this is considered young for these trees that on average start producing cones as young as 7 years old and continue for 350 more years. The cones they will eventually produce are actually organs necessary for reproduction. Ponderosa pine trees are monoecious, meaning that each tree produces both male and female cones. The male cones produce pollen and are smaller. They are usually found on the lower branches, as opposed to the female cones that are much larger and found higher up in the tree. The male cones will fall from the tree shortly after the pollen is released, sometime in mid to late June, depending on climate and elevation. They tend to drop earlier during warmer weather and later at higher elevations. The female cones, which contain seeds, will remain on the tree for two years in order to mature. When the cones become mature they fall off and break open or break down, allowing the seeds inside to be dispersed either by wind or sometimes birds. At this point it is just a waiting game until your trees are old enough to produce cones.