About 33 acres of overgrown jack pine trees in Livingston County, Michigan, are being harvested to provide seeds for planting new trees across the state.
The trees are at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Tree Improvement Center near Brighton. The seed orchard is about 35 years old and the trees are too large to efficiently pick cones from, said Jason Hartman, silviculturist with the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. Silviculture is the branch of forestry that focuses on the establishment, growth, composition, health and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values.
“There are some jack pine trees that we planted years ago for seed collection, and they’re overgrown,” Hartman said. “We couldn’t keep them pruned low enough where we could pick pine cones from the ground.”
Jack pine cones need heat to open. In natural conditions, that heat would come from a forest fire or sunlight. The DNR will pick pine cones from the cut trees and then heat them in kilns to release the seeds. The seeds will be used to plant seedlings and regenerate jack pine forests across the state. Timber from these felled trees also is being utilized by a local logger.
The DNR is looking for volunteers to help pick cones from the felled trees. Those interested in helping out should contact Jason Hartman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hartman said the DNR plans to replant the blocks of harvested pines on a staggered schedule so that the future seed orchard will contain trees of differing ages.
The Tree Improvement Center site was used as a state forest tree nursery starting in 1957; it was designated as the Tree Improvement Center in 1985. Its priority purpose is to grow cones and extract seeds, and the jack pines that currently are being harvested were planted specifically to provide a steady supply of seeds.
A small part of the Tree Improvement Center property may be leased for a seedling nursery operation, which will utilize the seeds produced from adjacent orchards to grow seedlings that are planted throughout Michigan. The majority of the grounds will continue to be managed for cone and seed production by the DNR.
The DNR plants about 3 million jack pine seedlings across the state each year. Jack pines grow in dry, sandy soils and provide habitat for a variety of animals including the endangered Kirtland’s warbler, the spruce grouse, snowshoe hares and white-tailed deer.
Learn more about the jack pine ecosystem on the Wildlife and Habitat section of the DNR website.