KILLER PINE CONES

WANNA CHUCKLE? Ginny and I have always joked, morbidly, about being killed by green, tightly closed...

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

There are several reasons that pine cones 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 at squirrel bombings. 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 pine cone larger than himself at my poor cat. At the same moment the pine cone hits the ground with a tremendous thud, mere inches from Whiskey, 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, killer pine cones prompted loggers to nickname the Coulter pine cone “widow-makers.” A 10 pound, 16-inch long pine cone 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. Mention was also made of spiny claws encircling the pine cone to gouge you to death just in case the head impact failed to do the job. 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 pine cones that are real head crushers at 22 pounds.

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