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GREEN PINECONES • Southern Rural Route

Ginny and I have always joked, morbidly, about being killed by green, tightly closed pinecones falling from our trees. She dubbed them greenies.

Average sized greenie

There are several reasons that pinecones fall:

  • Over production by the tree
  • Damp conditions (closed scales)
  • Drought conditions (open scales)
  • Windy conditions
  • Stress (tree is dying)
  • Squirrel bombings

Don’t laugh. I have not witnessed a squirrel bombing but I know it happens. Whiskey, my cat, likes to keep me company while I work in the garden. A cat invasion of squirrel territory results in a warning ruckus. If ignored, one of the more militant of the bunch will heave a green pinecone larger than himself at my poor cat. At the same moment the pinecone hits the ground with a tremendous thud, mere inches from my poor cat, I see a blur of cat fur streak past my peripheral vision. I envy a cat’s speed and agility.

Not that speed and agility would do you much good when under attack by a greenie. They don’t exactly make those missile noises you hear on the Saturday cartoons. All is silent until that awful thud when it slams into the ground. If your head happens to be in the way, well, Ginny and I wonder about that.

It’s hard to determine what a greenie weighs. You can never get an accurate weight of something smaller than a human on the bathroom scale. In order to weigh a greenie, someone in my crowd, and I’m not saying it’s Ginny and I’m not saying it was me, took the greenie to the grocery store and surreptitiously weighed it on the produce scale. It was under a pound but we are still convinced it would be deadly when you add distance, velocity, and all that other scientific stuff. Think about what a 12-ounce jar of jam would do to you if it fell out of a tree and you can appreciate our concern about greenies.

In a quickie search of the web, I found no reported instances of Death by Greenie but in California, pinecone killings prompted loggers to nickname the Coulter pinecone “widow-makers.” A 10 pound, 16-inch long pinecone falling from 80 feet (or 30 feet if the tree is still growing), gives you the combination of height and size needed for a killer cone. I gather it doesn’t need to be green, either, as mention was made of spiny claws encircling the pinecone. Nowadays, loggers wear hard hats in Coulter forests.

Australia has bunya pines that date back to the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods when dinosaurs roamed. Strangely, they are not pine trees but produce pinecones that are real head crushers at 22 pounds. Use Google Images to see photos of the Bunya or Coulter pinecones.

If you’ve got any tall tales about Greenies, I want to hear them.