|California Sugar Pine, Sequoia,
and Redwood pinecones
No search for the massive in California is complete without visiting the coastal Redwood trees, the tallest living thing on earth. These Christmas tree evergreens reach into the very atmosphere, parting the clouds and tickling the California sunshine with their tassel tops.
Camping in Sequoia, Yosemite, and Redwood National Parks as we oooed and aahed our way through the magnificent forests, I became obsessed with discovering these massive trees’ pine cones.
We had just set up camp at Sequoia National Park when five children and I wandered off in search of pine cones. I thought I’d use this opportunity to teach them about nature.
“All pine trees have pine cones,” I told the children as they followed in my wake down one of the paths at the campground. “That’s where their seeds are.” I glanced back at them.
They nodded while excitement danced in their eyes.
“Now, since these trees are so massive,” I said, all knowingly. “Their pine cones must be huge.”
The children nodded again. They looked up. The sunlight filtered through the towering pines and covered their faces in lace patterns.
“Let’s see if we can find some to show Daddy.”
Further down the path, we came to a group of pines amid huge ferns, rocks, and fallen branches.
“Stay around here and bring back what you find,” I instructed. They dropped away from the mother tree faster than the pine cones we were searching for.
Carefully, I searched through the underbrush at the base of a huge pine, working my way further from the tree. Then I discovered it behind a rock in the thick ferns, a huge pine cone thicker and longer than my forearm.
“Look, look,” I cried to the children, holding the pine cone aloft with both hands.
The children scrambled out of the brush. Some had New Jersey-sized cones but sturdier and thicker.
“Let’s show Daddy,” they all shouted.
But as I gazed at the vastly different cones, I realized I was no expert. “Let’s take these over to the ranger station, so we can tell Daddy exactly what they are.”
I was glad we did. The huge pine cone I found was not the mighty sequoia pine cone. It was a sugar pine cone, a huge tree yes, but nowhere near as massive as the sequoia. That cone was the egg-shaped, woody cone my son found. And the towering redwood? Its pine cone is the size of a quarter, thin and spidery.
What I taught my children that day was to check with an expert when they’re not sure of something. As much as we parents would like to have all the answers, many times we don’t. The best thing a parent can do is help find knowledgeable resources for their children and then learn along with them.