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Word of the Week: Umbo

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Umbo [UHM-boh ] (noun): A blunt or rounded protuberance, as on the ends of the scales of pine cones.

Oftentimes, when we are moving through the forest and spot a conifer cone on the ground, our minds will first think that it is a pine cone. But there are lots of conifers that are not pines, which will also produce cones!

Just by looking closely at the scales of the cones, you can learn if it truly is a pine cone or if it is a cone from a different type of conifer.

Pine cones will have thick scales with a little point called an umbo. In fact, for some pine cones, the umbos can be very pronounced with a sharp spike or “prickle.” In High Park, you can notice these umbos on the cones of Eastern white pines, Austrian pines, Red pines, or Scots pines.

Differently, the cones of many of the non-pine species will have thin scales without that little umbo. In High Park, you can notice these thin scales and absent umbos on the cones of conifers like Norway spruce or Eastern Hemlock.

On your next Winter visit to High Park, keep an eye out for pine cones and their umbos!

If you would like to grow your local tree knowledge this season, check out our “Tree-mendous Trees” Online Naturalist Course for adults. In this course, you can develop the skills you need to identify a wide variety of North American trees* and explore fascinating details of their life histories.

*This course will focus on the most common trees in Ontario, many of which are also distributed widely in other parts of North America.

For more details and to register: https://highparknaturecentre.c…