The pine cones typically thought of as pine cones are actually the bigger female pine cones; male pine cones are not as woody and are much smaller in size. Female pine cones hold the seeds whereas male pine cones contain the pollen. Most conifers, or cone-bearing trees, have female and male pine cones on the same tree.
A female pine cone, also called a megasporangiate strobilus, consists of cone or seed scales that hold two ovules, the unfertilized seeds. It takes about two years for female pine cones to become mature. When the seed matures, the cone opens up, exposing the seeds to the environment. Once the seeds are mature, the seed scales fall out of the cone. Seeds are then carried away from the parent tree by the wind and animals. Some female pine cones do not open up until they experience high temperatures such as during a forest fire.
The male pine cone, or microsporangiate strobilus, do not last as long as their female counterparts. Every spring, the pollen from the male pine cones are released into the air where they may eventually land on a scale on the female cone. Male pine cones are usually yellowish because of the pollen dust. Male cones exist in clusters on the tips of the branches of pine trees.