News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate

Cone collection provides seeds to sow as trees on the National Forest Estate

150 sacks of Sitka spruce cones and 72 sacks of Alaskan Lodgepole pine cones have been collected by hand to help provide seeds to sow as trees on the National Forest Estate.

 seed collection

With an annual demand of approximately 11 million trees, Sitka spruce accounts for 60% of all conifers and 53% of all trees planted on the National Forest Estate annually. To grow this quantity of trees requires a significant quantity of seed to sow in our Forest Nursery at Newton, Elgin.

Newton Nursery utilised the specialist skills of Arboricultural contractors, Forres Tree Services and Murray Forestry Ltd to climb, prune and collect cones from two of Forest Enterprise Scotland’s (FES) Sitka spruce seed orchards one in Tentsmuir and one just outside Elgin.

The 150 sacks of spruce cones will yield approximately 75 kg of pure Sitka spruce seed. This quantity of seed, when sown is expected to yield approximately 16 million trees.  The seed collected will be made available to Newton nursery and could be sewn as early 2019 and made forest ready by 2022. 

To compliment this collection, Newton nursery has also collected 72 sacks of Alaskan Lodgepole pine from Rumster in Caithness.

sack of cones

This collection was made in early October by nursery staff with the assistance of the local team from North Highland Forest District. A dedicated team of up to 20 met daily for a week picking cones and filling sacks all to be taken back to Newton nursery and later extracted into useable seed.  It is expected that the cones collected will yield approximately 4.4 million trees.

The Lodgepole pine seed collected was picked from trees originally planted as a Christmas tree plantation. Noting their origin, Alan Duncan, Newton nursery manager has been respacing and managing this site to encourage regular coning thereby decreasing FES’s reliance on 3rd party seed providers.

Sean Millar, Transition Manager - FES Plant & Seed Supply, said: “These seed collections mean that FES has a larger reserve of useable quality seed in store for subsequent years planting. To sustain our annual programme of 22 million planted trees Newton nursery consumes nearly 100 Kgs of seed every year.  Going forward we are looking forward to collecting more seed from the National Forest Estate, especially from registered seed orchards and seed stands.”