Pints & Pinecones in Eugene

The Eugene Branch showed off their epic cone collection at Oakshire Brewing

This month, the Eugene Branch put on a tree trivia—Treevia!—at Oakshire Brewing. The Eugene staff was joined by partners, arborists, volunteers, and supporters to talk trees over a few pints, and a dollar from each beer went back to Friends of Trees. “It was a fitting place because the brewery is in the Whiteaker neighborhood in Eugene, which is famous for tree advocacy,” says Eugene Director Erik Burke.

For the trivia, they focused on cones, the strange and varied structures that are specific to conifer trees. On a table at Oakshire Brewing, FOT laid out an assortment of cones, big and small, prickly and smooth, and asked folks to match them to their corresponding trees.

“We had a great turn out of familiar faces,” says Taylor Glass, the volunteer and program specialist in Eugene. “Showing them all these really cool cones, it’s a fun way to connect.”

It’s not just pine trees that make cones. Cypresses and cedars also produce cones in order to reproduce. Pines, cypresses, and cedars are all conifers—so named for their cones, of course. “Male cones that put out pollen, which has already started,” says Erik. “What we think of as pine cones are the female seed cones.” 

The little plates in the cones, called bracts, each contain an individual seed. Some deciduous trees, like our native white alder, also produce male pollen structures called catkins and the female catkins turn into cones that look like pine cones.

Sugar Pine: Native people ate valley ponderosa pine and sugar pine seeds. In fact, most of the seeds in cones in the pine family are edible (pine nuts)!

The Douglas-fir is the most common tree in the Pacific Northwest and it’s cone is very recognizable. The story is that a mouse was running along, and a hawk swooped down on it, so it jumped inside the cone, but you can still see its little feet sticking out. 

The Oregon native trees that we call natives, incense cedar and western red cedar, are actually in the cypress family.  Incense cedars have little cones that look like duck bills, and western red cedar cones look like little roses.

True cedars are in the pine family and come from Africa, Asia and Europe. Not everything we call a cedar is a true cedar. You can tell the cones of true cedars, like the Atlas cedar, because they stick up vertically and shed their bracts one by one while staying attached to the tree.

How amazing that redwoods and sequoias, the largest trees in North America, come from these little cones and have tiny seeds. 

The Coulter pine’s cone is pretty intense! It’s got sharp points, and it’s heavy too, so heads up!