Bring a bushel of fresh red pine cones to the Michigan DNR and you can earn $100 and help grow trees

Old cones, or cones of wrong species will not be accepted

Close-up image of fresh red pine cone and needles (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Know where to find Red pine trees? If you collect a bushel of red pine cones next month you could earn $100 and help the Michigan Department of Natural Resources plant trees in state forests.

If you pick red pine cones and drop them off (by appointment) at several DNR locations in the state you’ll be paid $100 for a bushel.

Old cones or cones of the wrong species of pine tree will not be accepted. The DNR is also looking for freshness and proper storage.

If you want to be paid to collect cones, you’ll have to register as a vendor online. The DRN said finding enough of the right cones is not an easy task. A bushel is approximately two 5-gallon buckets.

How to identify the pine cones

According to the DNR, red pines have craggy, reddish bark and 4- to-6-inch needles that grow in bundles of two. Scotch and Austrian pine cones, which have some similarities, will not be accepted.

Cones should be picked directly off the tree because cones on the ground are likely too old or wet. Don’t put twigs, needles or debris in your buckets because they will not be accepted.

Cone scales – the individual plates of a cone – should be closed (scales should not move when squeezed), with a little green or purple tint. All brown and open, and they’re too far gone and will be refused.

The DNR said cones should be picked from living red pine trees where branches extend close to the ground. Fersh cones can be found in recently felled treetops from timber sales on state forest lands.

If you’re picking from a recent timber scale you’ll need permission from the logger and you’ll have to wear a hardhat.

Make sure you store the pine cones in cool, dry, mesh bags. The DNR will provide onion bags to pickers at the drop off locations. Do not use burlap or plastic bags because they can hold moisture and ruin the cones. Tag the bags on the inside and outside with your name, the county where you picked and if the cones are wild or from a plantation.

Drop off pine cones by appointment

Cones may be dropped off by appointment at select DNR Customer Service Centers and Wyman Nursery:

  • Newberry CSC – Jason Tokar, 906-291-0126.
  • Wyman Nursery (Manistique) – Sheila Clark, 906-341-2518.
  • Gaylord CSC – Tim Greco, 989-619-5519.
  • Roscommon CSC – Jason Hartman, 989-390-0279.
  • Cadillac CSC – Scott Throop, 231-878-0669.

Please do not bring pine cones to DNR Customer Service Centers not listed here and without first making an appointment.

What will the DNR do with the pine cones?

After the pine cones are dropped off at the DNR, they will be placed into machines that gently warm and shake them. That allows the seeds within to drop out so they can be stored until planting time.

The process helps foresters replant the forest and replenish the supply of red pine seeds, which is in high demand.

Red pine is a fast-growing tree species that is used to make many types of forest products including lumber, posts and pulpwood.

Learn more at Michigan.gov/Forestry.


About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.