FireWorks for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Northern Cascades - E11: Recipe for a Lodgepole Pine Forest: Serotinous Cones
Course Type: FireWorks activities
Availability: Public access
Author(s): FireWorks Educational Program
  • Ilana L. Abrahamson
    US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program
Date Created: December 22, 2017

Cataloging Information

  • cone serotiny
  • germination
  • seed bank
  • serotinous
Partner Site(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: February 10, 2023
FRAMES Record Number: 25526


Lesson Overview: In this activity students extract seeds from serotinous cones of Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine, count the seeds, report their results, and analyze their pooled data. Then they calculate the number of seeds from serotinous cones that might germinate in a small forest after a crown fire has swept through.

Lesson Goal: Students will understand that many lodgepole pine trees have serotinous cones, which means that wildland fire helps them reproduce. Heat from a fire opens their cones, and their seeds drop onto a perfect seedbed. They will understand that lodgepole pine seeds and subsequent seedlings may be amazingly abundant after a severe fire.


  • Students can explain how seeds can get out of a serotinous lodgepole pine cone.
  • Students can identify filled versus empty seeds.
  • Students can count the number of filled seeds in a cone and record their data on a chart.
  • Students can combine the class’s data with other information to estimate the abundance of lodgepole pine regeneration after fire.