Cones are the tough little clusters of scales that coniferous trees carry their seeds in.
The scales on a cone are called bracts. The seeds are held between the bracts. Bracts are thin and papery in spruces and thick and woody in silver firs.
Pine cone bracts have a lump called an umbo.
All cones are green and quite soft when they first form, then turn brown and hard as they ripen.
Cones stand upright on the branch until they are ripe and ready to shed their seeds.
Most cones turn over when ripe to hang downwards so that the seeds fall out.
The cones of cedars and silver firs stay upright and the bracts drop away to release the seeds.
Long, hanging cones like those of the pine and spruce hang throughout winter then release seeds in spring.
The monkey puzzle tree has a unique, pineapple-shaped cone with golden spines and edible seeds.
The monkey puzzle tree is native to Chile and Argentina. It is so called because the first settlers puzzled at how monkeys could reach the seeds on the prickly maze of branches. They failed to realize that there were no monkeys there at all!