Lake Arrowhead, CA, USA

Identifying Pinecones

While on your serene mountain hike

Read About Identifying Pinecones

Identifying Pinecones

November 9, 2018

By Paola Zarate

While on your serene mountain hike, you probably stopped to smell the wildflowers, appreciate an interesting rock, or even pick up a few souvenirs of your adventures. Chances are that you also ran across some interesting flora and fauna that you couldn't quite identify, but you'd like to try! Pine trees, which produce pinecones, are everywhere around Lake Arrowhead. If you happen across a pinecone or two, here's how you can identify them, and figure out which tree they belong to!

Coulter Pine

The Coulter pine only grows in California, and the pinecones it produces are enormous! They can weight up to 5 pounds each, and from top to bottom can measure around 10 inches. Its scales are sharp and woody, curving out slightly from the cone; the large size of the cone and the way the scales curve make it vaguely look like a pineapple. If you see Coulter pines when you're out hiking, watch out for falling cones - they will definitely leave a mark if they fall on your head!

Jeffrey Pine

Interestingly, this pine tree actually produces two differently-sized pinecones: the female cones are fairly large, measuring around 5 to 15 inches, and the male cones are very small, often only measuring around 1 inch long. The woody scales on the female cones have prickles that turn inward, so when you run your hand down the side of the cone, it feels smooth. If you find pinecones matching this description and the trees around you smell like pineapples or vanilla, you are probably surrounded by Jeffrey pines.

Sugar Pine

You might be able to find this particular pine tree up and down the West Coast. What is distinctive about the pinecones from a sugar pine is their length - they can measure up to 26 inches in length, making them the longest in the world. The scales lie very close together on the cone, almost like scales on a fish, with a small hook-like barb on the end. The trees they come from are also some of the tallest, reaching upwards of 190 feet in height at maturity; so if you feel like you are being dwarfed by the trees around you, you'll probably be able to find some sugar pinecones.

There's nothing like exploring the natural world and knowing how to identify what you are seeing - hopefully you'll be able to find some beautiful pinecones on your next hike near the lovely Lake Arrowhead!

About the author

Paola Zarate

Paola Zarate

Paola Zarate traded in her hometown in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to Arrowbear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California several years ago. She now attends college and is pursing a teaching career.

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