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Do pine trees know when it’s Easter?

Ever seen a cross on top of a pine tree? (No, we don’t mean the wooden kind.) Around Easter each spring, some species in certain regions start to develop shoots with a familiar shape. This sighting has led to a popular legend that pine trees “know” when it’s Easter.

“If you look at the tops of the pine trees two weeks before [Easter], you will see the yellow shoots,” the blog A Lighthouse recounts. “As the days get closer to Easter Sunday, the tallest shoot will branch off and form a cross. By the time Easter Sunday comes around, you will see that most of the pine trees will have small yellow crosses on all of the tallest shoots.”

While it’s true that these “crosses” appear in late March or early April for most of the country, the inspirational story linking them to the Christian holiday is just that—a story (albeit a lovely one).

Amy Enfield, Ph.D., consumer horticulturist at ScottsMiracle-Gro tells

“The yellowish vertical shoots, known as candles, form first, then the side buds which will eventually form branches develop leading to the new growth resembling a cross. The fact that this happens around Easter in parts of the U.S. is a coincidence. In warmer areas of the U.S., the new growth starts well before the Easter holiday. The crosses are more prominent on some species of pines than others, for example, they can be prominently seen on loblolly pines found in the southern U.S. and the ponderosa pine found in the West.”

Still, believers in our neck of the woods might enjoy spotting the shoots every season and interpreting them as a sign of the religious celebration of Easter to come. When you’re out and about over the next few days, see if you can spot Easter crosses on our pine trees.

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