(WFRV) – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will pay over $100 a bushel for properly collected red pine cones that will go toward its reforestation program.

A release from the Wisconsin DNR states that early September is the prime time to collect red pine cones as they turn from green to a purplish brown, and reddish-brown tips begin to develop.

Wisconsin DNR paying for bushels of red pine cones
Red pine cones are mature when they have turned from green to purplish with red-brown tips. (Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR)

Officials say that this fall, the DNR’s tree nursery in Boscobel will be sowing the last of the red pine seed they have in storage, leading the DNR to turn to Wisconsin residents to collect seed to replenish their supply.

Red pine is Wisconsin’s number one conifer for timber production and many red pine plantations are now being harvested as they reach maturity. For sites that will be returned to red pine production, that most likely means planting seedlings for regeneration so help in collecting seed now is vital to ensure the future of this valuable timber resource.

Jeremiah Auer, DNR Forest Regeneration Specialist

The DNR is looking for red pine cones at that mature stage described above, when the color has just turned brown but the scales have not yet opened to release the seeds.

Red pine cones can be found throughout the state, especially in the sandy soils of central, northwest, and northeast Wisconsin. They are at maturity in southern and central Wisconsin, and are mostly ready for collection in northern Wisconsin, officials say.

The DNR pays $125/bushel for properly collected red pine cones, a bushel typically nets about half of a pound of viable seeds.

How to Collect – According to the Wisconsin DNR

  • Before collecting cones, contact one of the state nurseries to ensure purchasing is still open.
    • Griffith Nursery in Wisconsin Rapids: 715-424-3700
    • Wilson Nursery in Boscobel: 608-375-4123
    • Hayward Nursery in Hayward: 715-492-1204
  • All seed must be of natural origin. Trees in your yard are not appropriate for seed harvest.
  • Seed must be separated and labeled by county of origin.
  • Cones must be closed. Red pine cones open and close quickly in response to humidity changes but they disperse most of their seed after opening the first time.
  • Red pine cones are mature when they have turned from green to purplish with red-brown tips. Use clippers to snip these mature, unopened cones at the base of the branch.
  • Wear gloves so your hands don’t get covered in sap.
  • Do not mistake Austrian or Scotch pine for red pine. Scotch pine bark is flaky (especially toward the upper part of the stem) and orange and their cones appear twisted and green, even at maturity. Austrian pine tends to be found in urban environments, has a stocky appearance and darker bark compared to red pine. The DNR’s “Forest Trees of Wisconsin” booklet can help collectors identify red pine.
  • Get permission from the landowner before collecting cones.

How to Sell

  • After collecting, store the cones in a cool, dry area to limit mold growth or cone opening.
  • Store the cones in breathable containers.
  • Deliver the cones to one of the DNR buying stations as soon as possible. View buying stations on our Sell Tree Seed webpage.
  • If there is excess debris mixed in with the cones, they may be rejected or a price reduction applied. The DNR reserves the right to refuse purchase if the cones don’t meet specifications.

For more information about seed drop-off and buying locations throughout the state, click here.