Can You Grow Pine Trees From Seeds? STEM Activity

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I remember when I was a little girl, I loved going outside and collecting
pinecones. Some pinecones I’d paint and decorate with glitter. Others I’d
smother with peanut butter and birdseed and give to the squirrels. And, others
I’d keep in a basket on my front porch just because they were pretty and I liked
how they smelled. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned how important
pinecones are to a tree’s life cycle. 

This is a simple STEM activity that you can use during your science lessons about trees, tree life cycles, habitats, and the environment. It can also be used as an Earth Day activity. Keep reading to learn more!

    


Before you begin this science and STEM experiment, review these key
vocabulary words and concepts with your students:

  • life cycle
  • seed
  • sapling
  • seedling
  • pinecone
  • develop / development
  • mature / maturity
  • germinate / germination
  • evergreen / deciduous
Drawing of a pine tree's life cycle

-by Ms. Wilson’s class-

Question:

Can we grow a pine tree from some seeds?

Hypothesis:

Some people in our class believe that it’s possible to plant seeds and grow pine tree saplings. Some of the others say it’s not
possible because seeds are so small and pine trees are so big!

Materials Needed:

1. In the spring or in the autumn, go for a nature walk with your students
and collect at least two or three pinecones per student. An ideal time to collect freshly fallen pinecones is after a windstorm!

Six pinecones on a white paper plate

We collected blue spruce pinecones while we were outside.

2. Squeeze, crumble, and crush the pinecones over a paper plate to release their seeds. Some pinecones will release a lot of seeds, whereas others will
release only a few. This depends largely on how long the pinecone was on
the ground before it was picked up. The longer a pinecone is on the
ground, the more likely it is that it has already dropped some… or all… of its
seeds.

Seeds from the pinecones on a white paper plate

This is what it looked like when we crumbled two pinecones. Can you see
the tiny seeds?

Close up of tiny pine tree seeds

This is a close-up view of the seeds that came out of the
pinecones.

3. Add soil to the bottom of the plastic containers. Sprinkle the seeds
from the pinecones onto the soil. Cover with a very thin layer of
additional soil. Moisten with water… do not drench! Then close the
container and set it in a warm sunny window. When the seeds start to
germinate, you can remove the lids and take care of them the way you would
take care of a houseplant.

Small pine tree saplings are emerging from the soil.>

After several weeks, tiny pine tree saplings began to emerge!

Findings:

  • We planted a lot of seeds, but less than half germinated.
  • Pine tree saplings are delicate. They are hard to take care of and die
    easily.
  • None of our seeds survived past the seedling stage.

Conclusion:

Yes, you can grow a pine tree from seeds. It is possible to plant the
seeds from a pinecone and have pine tree seedlings germinate from
them.

Extending Our Knowledge:

  • We did some research and learned that pine trees have a lot of seeds
    in their pinecones to ensure their survival. Even though one pine
    tree can drop dozens of pinecones each year, very few of the seeds actually germinate and even fewer will survive.
  • We also learned that crossbills, woodpeckers, squirrels, and people
    like to eat pinecones and their seeds. Animals like squirrels,
    rabbits, voles, and porcupines like to eat seedlings. This means
    even fewer… if any… of the saplings will make it
    to maturity.
  • If our pine tree seedlings had survived, it would have taken 25 to 30 years for them
    to reach maturity.
  • After doing this STEM experiment, we learned why it’s important
    to plant three seeds every time you chop down one tree… not every
    seed you plant will develop into a mature tree!

A small pine tree sapling growing outdoors

This is a pine tree sapling at a nursery. Will it beat the odds and
reach its maturity?

Did you enjoy this blog post about growing pine trees? If so, check out
these blog posts from more plant and gardening activities:

search words: pine tree, pinetree, pinecone, pine cone, evergreen,
ever green, plant, planting, plants, plant life cycle, gardening

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