I've been geeking out on collecting pine cones recently. For whatever reason, I am fascinated by the reproductive parts of conifers. It's also a nice memento of forests I have visited. It all started with a Big Tree cone I got at Sequoia National Park. I didn't bother getting any more cones until I realized we had Dawn Redwoods growing in our local park. I found a few cones on the ground around the tree. I have 2 of the 3 extant redwood species cones.
Most of the rest of my cones are from our local zoo. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo actually has a really nice collection of trees that are farely well marked. I have found collected some Japanese Larch, China Fir, Eastern Hemlock, and Scotts Pine cones. There are other trees I would like to collect cone samples from, but when getting them from parks, I make a point of waiting until they hit the ground. At that point, most of cones have shed their seeds.
I like comparing and contrasting them too. Seeing the subtle and not so differences between cones from the same genus or family can be quite interesting. The only challenge I have come across with collectin these cones is finding ones that aren't covered in sap. Northeastern Ohio has alot of Norway Spruce. I want to get one of those cones, but most of them are completely covered with sap around here. Same for the Eastern White Pine.