The Story of Growth: A Prickly Tree’s Hope Of Many Children
[Or, Christmas In July, Unintentionally]
As I walked down the street today with Toby in my stroller, I found two pinecones on the asphalt. They had obviously been sitting on the asphalt for awhile; they were busted up and half of each of them was broken off. I veered around them in disgust for my least-favorite tree and walked on, but then I stopped with a sudden burst of curiosity, then walked back a few steps to pick them up.
More wonder came as I examined them quickly, then tucked them in my stroller and went on.
My curiosity peaked and I could glimpse how pine trees spread their seed. I knew it was by pinecones, yes, but some pinecones are immature and fall but don’t do anything. They make excellent Sister Bombs; I’ve had pinecones thrown by brothers at me many times. They’re hefty, they’re slightly spiky, so they stick in long hair, and they’re light enough and common enough that no one thought twice when I complained about being battered by them.
I knew that pines do not produce seeds every year, or even every other year. But the pinecones I picked up were clearly fertilized; they looked very different than cones that first grow on pine trees–bigger and more relaxed.
I thought the broad blades of a pinecone looked like seeds that break away from the ball and leave finer blades that hold the seeds in, but that’s not true. The seed looks like it’s in the tip of the blade; the blade looks like it could be capable of catching flight, once broken off. In the pinecones still sitting in the pocket of my stroller, about half of each pinecone is disintegrated. But that’s not right, either.
Because these particular cones were along the street, I can guess that they got smashed apart by a bike, a car, or someone’s feet. The seeds might have been knocked loose by their fall to the asphalt from the high branches of the tree; that must be why pine cones grow on the tips of the branches and not further inside, where they could roll off pine boughs before landing gently on the ground. Here’s the answer to how pinecones disperse seeds: the cone that is open and on the ground is already spent. (The links here don’t directly relate to my topic at first, but they make the most sense in language and presentation, and they have the answers.)
After further study, I find that cones are also on the tips of the branches so they can reach each other and achieve the tree’s whole purpose in life: to grow. Just’In and I got to a point in our marriage where we realized something: our marriage was good, but it couldn’t grow into any other stage of progress without children. Plants are the same way; some of them end their lifespan as soon as they’re pretty sure that they have propagated. Their continuance has been reassured, and they live on through their children; they have grown as far as they can.
I definitely don’t plan on dying any time soon, but it was interesting to encounter something else’s attempt at progeny on the asphalt while pushing my own progeny. I hope the seeds that fell out of the cores of the cones found good soil, even if they’ll thwart some gardener’s efforts at order. They’re tiny, and they travel along the blade of the cone into chance’s hands.
I know how much hope I pour into my child; the hope is why I work so hard to ensure that he thrives. Consider how much hope a tree might have for the seeds it creates as it continues to grow on its own. This one creates a complicated thing like a pinecone, filled with hope.