What Have I Found Here?

What is this woody arrangement of parts?

I confess I know the answer. It is, obviously, a botanical object, familiar, I had not seen it in this exact configuration before.

And by the way, a friend recently told me he learned that the pointy tip of this arrangement made an excellent toothpick, and had a history of this use.

We conjured up the silly idea of a new Floyd County home industry, foraging, packaging and selling these for a quarter at local boutique checkout counters.

So what is it?

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Maybe it is the remnant of a some conifer cone? Very pretty!! I think craftsy people would love to include these in their dry flower arrangements, wreaths, etc. I bet they would pay more than a quarter, too. Maybe a OCD squirrel neatly ate his way down from the tip, and doesn’t like the final row of scales.

  2. Kathy, it’s a reasonable guess that it might be a conifer, since the “scales” are tough and lignous, while most angiosperms have petal-like structures. And Sally, good call: you’re into the right plant ORDER, though the common name would throw a person off into an entirely unrelated group.

    Folks in the eastern US can find similar examples in most any forest, but especially near water and in “cove forests.”

  3. One of my favorite plants, and why would that be?
    Great aroma, fastest growing wood in the forest, early succession or mature forest overstory, useful for furniture, framing, siding; lightweight easy to work; excellent heartwood coloration, playfull seed covers which whirl and dance through the air in dispersing it’s cargo.
    Lyriodendron tuliperfera.
    Question is why doesn’t the DOF produce seedlings for reforestation?