RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – Many of us may not be able to identify a Sugar Pine, but the cones can’t be missed. They sometimes grow to more than 12 inches long.
It is the pinecones which may one day help the magnificent species return in full to the Tahoe Basin.
At least that’s what the Sugar Pine Foundation hopes as they analyze the cones in late summer.
“Sometimes I do it by myself,” says Maria Micheva, Executive Director of the Sugar Pine Foundation on how she collects the pinecones. “But sometimes some friends want to help grab the sling shot and help out,” she says.
The sling shot has a weight at the end of the rope, and when Micheva launches it, it should land above and over the Sugar Pine cone or cones she has in her sight.
She nails it the first time for us. She then shakes the branch in hopes of getting one or two pinecones to fall to the ground. They haven’t matured yet which is what Micheva wants.
She opens the cone and looks for seeds, the wings, and the embryo.
“They are a little orangey,” she says of the seeds.
She would prefer they be brown in color. She looks further.
“It’s not quite ready, because when it is ready the embryo goes all the way to the top,” she says as she points to one end of the seed.
Micheva says these cones should be ready for harvest in seven to ten days. She tries again to capture another pinecone. She hits it the top of the tree over a branch, and brings the cone down to the ground.
This cone tells her the same thing.
The Sugar Pine Foundation wants to bring this spectacular tree back to its glory here in the Tahoe Basin. By harvesting the seeds of the Sugar Pine, the foundation can bring the cone’s seeds back to a nursery and nurture them until they become seedling.
Volunteers then replant the seed in areas where other Sugar Pines are located and faring well.
The Sugar Pine used to grow all over the basin, but fire, development, and a fungal disease has taken its toll. Micheva says efforts like this will hopefully take seed (sorry for the pun) to further diversify the Tahoe Forest.
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