In addition to the seed cones which are easy to find, coniferous trees also produce much smaller pollen cones. Photo by Maya Walters.
|All coniferous trees have two kinds of cones: seed cones and pollen cones. The seed cones are much more common to see, and provide the seeds that are such an important food source to squirrels and birds. The pollen cones are much smaller, and dry up in the spring as soon as they release their pollen. All these cones release so much pollen that it can often be seen as a yellow haze blowing in the air, or a floating layer on the surface of ponds. Millions of microscopic pollen grains make up these clouds of pollen, and it is possible to determine what species of plant any pollen grain came from. Since each plant species produces its own distinct pollen, and pollen grains form "microfossils" which persist for millions of years, pollen is important to the study of prehistoric vegetation. By studying ancient pollen samples, it is possible to discover the locations of ancient forest cover and what plants were most abundant in different places and different times. This information about prehistoric vegetation can then help to reveal how regional climates have varied over time.|
[coniferous forests] [boreal forests] [seeds] [mammals] [birds] [seasons] [forests through time] [climate]
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