Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmanniana)

Though I had a few good size cones from the Nordmanns from the Brown brothers' wood, I went there again today and collected some more. Nordmann fir has a beautiful symmetry when young which makes it one of the ideal Christmas trees. Some of the cones I had before got a little mouldy due to my negligence in not seperating the cones and storing them right soon enough. But even then I would have had enough; the cones from before were big. The ones I got today were rather small to medium by comparison.

You find them lying on the floor like this beneath the tall Nordmanns. I think with a little wind the cones are big enough to snap off the ends of the branches, which is why you find some still attached. But that is what you want. This is why:

You take hold of the branch like a handle with the part that goes inside the cone between your fingers. Then carefully you crank it like you're winding a clock, holding the cone firm in the other hand, and then pull.

And presto, the center piece that was holding it all together comes out, like a rod out of a gear-house, leaving the seed tower to fall apart. See it again:

Here is a single 'shelf' that goes to make up one the fir cones:

A single shelf holds two seeds on it. You remove the seeds:

Then comes the fun part where you de-wing the seeds (pluck off the wing attachments) and store them in a seperate bag. Wear kitchen gloves. These cones will get your hands frightfully sticky with their resin. Alternatively, your hands will smell like Christmas afterwards. So it's up to you.

The seed, above.

The chaff.

The seed I keep in the plastic bag in the fridge for storage. Later in winter I will stratify them. Meaning, they will be soaked overnight in distilled water, then they will be mixed with a damp sterile mixture of soil and sand (but not too much, and not too damp) in big enough sealable bags. Then it goes into the fridge until spring. When that happens you can expect some to already be sprouting in the bag in the fridge, especially if they are in there longer than they need to be. They are of course planted outdoors after that. If I follow procedure correctly (and it's not a difficult thing at all) I should get many of these:


Anonymous said...

That is wonderful. I liked the picture of the centre bit still attached to the branch. Fascinating. I was never one for enjoying fir trees, preferring the poplars and other such deciduous species. Now I will be paying more attention to its' subtleties. Somehow or another, that one picture reminded me of snowdrops: how easy-going they are and their hardiness.

Paul Stilwell said...

The way that all trees produce and protect their seeds is endlessly varied. The next in the 'seed series' here will be the Giant Redwoods. So stay tuned.

I also love the fact that the Brown brothers started all these trees that make up Redwood Park way back in Clover Valley's first pioneering days, and now, one can go in there and collect seeds and produce second generations. Especially cool is the fact that the Brown brothers brought up their redwood seedlings from a visit to California, which of course has its own much bigger and much older Redwoods. So the seeds I'm collecting from the Brown brothers' redwoods are...well, it's deep and awesome to think about - all that time in the California redwods that went to producing the seeds that ended up becoming the Brown brothers' redwoods, which in turn produce the seeds I collect.

The Nordmann when young, if I'm not mistaken, isn't as bushy as the other Christmas tree firs (which we mistakenly call pines). They have more open spaces between the branches, but the branches extend out straight and flat-like in very symmetrical tiers.

Once you get into trees, the more common ones you are used to seeing start to reveal their beauty. It becomes even more apparent when you grow them up from seeds. Like Chesterton said, "...if you look at a thing 999 times, you are perfectly safe, but if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time."