Pinecones and Roses
In the autumn season, I love to admire the falling leaves that scatter across the earth’s floor. I never know what treasures I may find hiding in a colorful leaf pile; sometimes I see a squirrel scavenging for acorns, other times I’ll find mushrooms poking out from the ground. On my most recent strolls, however, I’ve found several kinds of pinecones buried under red, orange, and yellow leaves — each one its own unique size, shape, and color. I’ve collected a few over the course of the season, but there was one pinecone in specific that captivated me for a very particular reason.
When I laid eyes on this cone, my first thought was that it looked just like a rose. Its folded, spiraling scales closely resembled that of blossoming rose petals, which made me wonder just how similar the rose flower truly is to the pinecone seed, both botanically and symbolically.
Let’s first begin with botany: Pinecones are seed plants, which means they are part of the Spermatophyta Superdivision in the scientific classification system. Roses are actually part of this Superdivision as well, though they diverge in the proceeding Division category, as roses fall under the Magnoliaphyta type (or flowering plants) and pinecones belong to the Coniferophyta kind (or conifers). Roses, while herbaceous plants, are also woody plants, meaning that they have a hard stem often lined with prickles or thorns. Similarly, pinecones are… well, woody in themselves, and have spines that serve to keep prey away. Thus, we can connect some loose threads between pinecones and roses in their physical nature, but the fact remains that there are still many tangible and biological differences between them than there are similarities. With this said, there is actually a more intriguing tie between these plants in regards to their historic symbolism.
Roses, as many of us are well aware, are often associated with love, romance, and passion. They can also symbolize confidentiality or secrets, and certain numeric amounts of roses can indicate specific messages, ranging from “I love you” to “I’m infatuated with you.” Furthermore, specific colors of this flower mean different things; yellow roses often stand for friendship, while white ones indicate purity or enchantment. In spirituality, the rose comes to represent a variety of ideas and figures, depending on the religion. For example, in mythology, the rose is connected to Aphrodite, whereas Christian communities tie Mary to the rose. The significance of this flower has clearly been ingrained in various cultures for a long time, and I’m sure that many of these associations may be familiar to you.
But how well-versed are you in pinecone symbolism? Not many people I know typically attribute any kind of meaning to them, yet pinecones have had long standing associations throughout history. The most notable qualities and ideals attributed to the pinecone include fertility, enlightenment, and eternal knowledge. Interestingly, they are also associated with the pineal gland, as is explained by Third Eye Pinecones:
Our “Pine”al Gland, shaped like (and named after) the Pinecone, is at the geometric center of our brain and is intimately linked to our body’s perception of light. The Pineal modulates our wake-sleep patterns and circadian rhythms, remains uniquely isolated from the blood-brain barrier system, and receives a higher percentage of blood flow than any other area of the body save the kidneys. It is considered by many to be our biological Third Eye…
You can even see the image of the third eye on a pinecone at its base, as its swirling scales grow outwards in an infinite spiral, akin to the Fibonacci sequence. Given this illusion, its role as a seed plant, and its status as one of the most ancient types of flora, it is no wonder that many cultures, like paganism, consider the pinecone as “a symbol which is connected to ideas of eternal life,” as well as “a phallic symbol for its shape and role in creating life” (despite the fact that the traditional pinecones we come to think of are actually the females of the species!). If you’re interested in learning more cool facts about these odd ‘evergreen fruits,’ I recommend reading this fun article.
Strangely enough, I find that the virile fertility and spiritual enlightenment indicative of the seed plant is an interesting foil to the passionate romance and secrecy of the rose flower. Both the rose and pinecone, however, represent strong power that respectively stems (pardon the pun) from the heart and the mind — a little reminder that all nature is interconnected in some way. The rose pattern exists in the pinecone and vice versa, as the atoms that make up stardust exist in our bodies. Physically or spiritually, big or small, all elements of the natural world complement each other: we are all more closely related than you’d think.
Julia Collucci writes big thoughts about the things she sees on her walks in both local neighborhoods and far-away places. Follow her Medium account Little Walks, Big Thoughts to read more of her articles.