A Science Experiment with Pine Cones and Water

A Science Experiment with Pine Cones and Water

Have you ever looked under a pine tree after it rains and wondered to yourself, "Huh, I wonder why I never noticed all those closed pinecones." And then a couple of sunny days later you pass by and wondered where the heck they all went. Here’s a little experiment to do with your class/after-school/pre-school/own little ones that will help you and the kids understand what happened.

First, you will need pine cones. The very best way to get these little guys is from underneath a pine tree. Doesn’t matter if they are little or big, but they need to be ‘ripe’ woody ones with mature seeds, not the green ones. Take the kids and pick up about ten or so, they can either be wet or dry when you pick them up.

Image via Wikipedia

Now that you have them, you need a deep try or a large bowl, something that will hold a little bit of water but will allow the air to get to the pine cones. Throw the pine cones in, after examining each one. If they are dry and open add some water on top of them. Drown them, if you want to, but they need to become quite thoroughly wet. And then watch the magic of nature. In just a few minutes you will notice that the ends of the pine cones will have started to close, protecting the seeds inside the cone. Pretty cool.

Image via Wikipedia

After each one is completely closed (the newer ones will do so, but if the cones are a couple of years old they might not close all the way), pour out the water and set the cones out on a dry towel. To help the little fellers along you can get a hairdryer out and the kids can try to dry them out. This process takes significantly longer than the getting them wet part. If you can, set them out in the hot sun for a couple of hours. By the end of the day you will see them open up. Like magic.

Why? Mother Nature is a pretty cool chick. In order to protect the pine cones seeds from drowning in the very wet, the woody husk of the pine cone expands when wet, bows just like a wet board will warp, causing the pine cone to close. What is really cool is that when the pine cone dries out the wood will contract, pulling the cone open again and letting the seeds fly away on the wind to be planted and start the whole process over again.

Whether you are studying the life-cycles of trees or the relationship of water in the natural world, this is a fun, easy, low cost experiment that can be done over and over again for many different ages. Enjoy!

Other activities for kids by me:

http://quazen.com/recreation/crafts/a-science-experiment-for-kids-gravity-and-centrifugal-force/

  • http://quazen.com/recreation/crafts/how-to-make-paper-with-kids/
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13 Comments
Joie Schmidt, posted this comment on Mar 15th, 2009

Very interesting!

Blessings.

Sincerely,

-Liane Schmidt.

Daisy Peasblossom, posted this comment on Mar 15th, 2009

Fun stuff! I’ll pass this one along to our science teacher.

Kate Smedley, posted this comment on Mar 15th, 2009

Great idea, thanks for sharing

Ruby Hawk, posted this comment on Mar 15th, 2009

I’ve lived around pine trees all my life but I didn’t know that. It’s good to learn something new.

rutherfranc, posted this comment on Mar 15th, 2009

nice info… didn`t know that.. what I know is they`re the cause of the dents in the roof of my car..

Mr Ghaz, posted this comment on Mar 16th, 2009

Nice one! I loved it!

Bullwinkle Muse, posted this comment on Mar 17th, 2009

what a thoughtful way to stir an interest in nature within young minds

skylite, posted this comment on Mar 17th, 2009

Interesting and well written !

hfj, posted this comment on Mar 19th, 2009

Nice article. Good information that i didn’t know. Who said you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well done teacher.

Betty Carew, posted this comment on Mar 22nd, 2009

What a wonderful article Annie good for grandmas and little grandchildren to.

C. S. Robins, posted this comment on Mar 24th, 2009

Very cool…i’m going to show this to my mom-she teaches fourth grade

Evelyn Moore, posted this comment on Apr 11th, 2009

Great article – when my grandchild comes over this summer I will try this. Thanks

Eva, posted this comment on Apr 13th, 2010

You learn something new everyday!! I picked up these little pine cones on my way home from my walk and threw them in the sink to wash them off. When I took them out, I placed them on a paper towel and left them to dry. The next time I took a peek at them, they were completely closed. I was so amazed, I called my husband to come take a look. I didn’t know this would happen, and now after reading this, I do. I’m going to show this to my granddaughters and also tell them why it’s happened. (Mother) Nature is truly amazing!

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