What Are Magnolia Tree Cones Used For?

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Magnolia trees thrive in temperate climates.
Magnolia trees thrive in temperate climates. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Magnolia trees are favored for their beautiful flowers and easy care. Native to the eastern United States, magnolias are used as shade trees and landscape shrubs. Over 80 magnolia cultivars are available, ranging from evergreen to deciduous, with flower shades including white, pink, green or yellow. The magnolia tree cones contain the seeds and make good garden and craft projects.

Seeds

After flowering, magnolia trees form fruit that looks like a cone. This fruit, with a red seed covering and reddish pulp, contains the seeds. This cone-shaped fruit, 3 to 5 inches long, matures in late summer and early autumn. In some cultivars, the red seed cover inhibits seed germination. Gather cones while they are fresh, just as they open, and remove the red seeds. Soak the seeds in water a day or two and scruff off the softened seed coat. Wash the seeds in mild soap and water, dry them gently and sow them directly in the ground. Cover lightly with soil and mulch to retain moisture until seedlings appear.

Bird Food

Birds nest in magnolia trees as the branches provide solid nest forks and the foliage gives protection from weather and predators, Evergreen magnolias provide shelter year-round to resident and migrating birds. Magnolia tree cones contain seeds favored by songbirds and other wildlife. When the fruit matures into cones, the cones open and the birds pick out the seeds and flesh. The reddish flesh is high in fat, fueling migratory birds in their travels. As the cones mature, they can be picked off the tree or gathered from the ground. Break them open and scatter the seed-bearing cones on a bird feeding platform.

Crafts

Magnolia tree cones are tapered cones. In their natural state, they change from light green to olive green or brown shades as they dry. Add these textured cones to dried bowl arrangements of seed pods, nuts and foliage. Or drill a hole in the plant stem and wire the magnolia cones to wreaths. Mix them with holiday ornaments as mantel decorations or centerpieces. Spray dry cones with clear acrylic paint for long-lasting arrangements. They last indefinitely if protected from adverse weather. These cones, like other woody cones, can be spray-painted in colors or rolled in glue and sprinkled with glitter. Use them like pine cones in any craft project.

Considerations

Magnolia tree cones are vegetative. Like other tree cones, they decay in moist, warm conditions. Add them to compost bins, breaking them apart if desired for faster decay. They are hard and oval when dry, making them hazardous underfoot. Gather cones from traffic walkways and play areas as soon as they fall from the tree. Use them for other projects, but do not leave them under the tree where people may step on the cones.

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