Spark a Reaction

The 2014 Teen Summer Program will consist of weekly Science challenges. Results of the challenge can be posted via email to:

Burning Pine Cone Reaction  Science Challenge #1

Get a pine cone good and wet. Don't soak it in water--it will close up. Roll the WET pine cone in ONE of the following:

  • Epsom salts--used as a bath or foot soak
  • Table salt--canning salt--Kosher salt--sea salt--ice cream salt--rock salt--the larger the crystal, the better the reaction
  • Baking soda--found in kitchens
  • White sugar--also found in kitchens.

Really pack the powder into the pine cone. (Each ingredient is safe to touch or taste). Set aside on newspaper to dry.

Outside, build a small wood fire in a safe fire ring or fire pit. Let burn until you have half coals, half fire. Throw your dry pine cone into the fire, aiming for the coals. Only use ONE pine cone at a time! Let the pine cone burn COMPLETELY before throwing in another pine cone. DO NOT COOK OVER FIRE--FOR EXPERIMENT USE ONLY!!! Results are best seen at night when it's dark for better contrast. Document (video clip, photos, email description--you are probably more tech savvy than me) the reaction in the flames. Email your results to the address found above ( (If you need pine cones, just let me know.) First person to report in by June 4th wins a prize!!!

This resource is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by State Library of Iowa.