Hemlock trees begin to bear strobili when about 20 years of age. The staminate buds are readily distinguished from leaf buds because of the former's much larger size. (Shoots arising from leaf buds are short, rarely exceeding an inch.) Pistillate strobili are visible by midsummer, maturing in the fall. The ripened cones release their winged seeds gradually over several months, the bracts opening and closing with changes in atmospheric humidity. Winds that vary in the direction of their origin during the course of the season, along with the frequent opening and closing of cone scales, encourage widespread dissemination of seeds.
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