Coniferous trees have small, waxy and usually narrow leaves (needles or flat scales). 'Coniferous' means that it is a cone-bearing tree. The most common conifers are spruces, pines and firs. Alternative names used for coniferous trees are evergreens, softwoods and (appropriately enough) conifers. However, the name evergreen is not really a good synonym. Laurel, acacia and eucalyptus are also evergreens, and although not deciduous, they are not cone-bearing trees (they also definitely have leaves rather than needles).
Interesting Coniferous Trees Facts
- Coniferous trees identification is done based on the leaves and cone. For example; pines and cedars have needle shaped leaves, whereas scale like leaves are borne on matured cypress trees.
- Majority of the coniferous trees are evergreen, meaning they retain their green foliage throughout the year. While a very few species (e.g. tamarack and bald cypress) shed their leaves annually (deciduous habit).
- Coniferous trees are very diverse in their growth habit. There are coniferous shrubs as well, but the number of trees is higher than that of shrubs and bushes. The tallest tree species, redwood (about 300 feet tall and 8 feet spread) belongs to conifers.
- As mentioned already, the reproductive structure of conifers is cone. Pollination in coniferous trees is of anemophilous type, wherein wind transfers the pollens from male cone to the female cone for fertilization.
Coniferous Trees Types
Coming to types of coniferous trees, there are eight families under Pinophyta. In total, more than 600 species of conifers are identified to date. The reduced leaf structure is one character shared by each of the coniferous trees. This serves as an adaptive feature for surviving in the cold climatic conditions. Leaves may be retained for as long as 15 years, depending upon the species. Mentioned below are some common coniferous trees:
It is grown for creating privacy screen and defining landscape. Some cultivars of firs can grow up to 12 inches per year. The variety balsam fir is known to survive for about 200 years and more. Like other common conifers, fir trees have soft woods that are used for making plywood.
The most widely distributed conifers are cypresses. Cypress family basically comprises shrubs, while a few of them are trees. The leaves of cypress trees are needle like, but change to scales in matured woods. Some varieties replace a portion of their leaves every year.
A commonly grown coniferous tree species, spruce tree is remarkable for its rapid growth rate (about 12 inch per year). The branches are developed in a whorled nature. Spruce tree has an attractive, conical shaped canopy.
Native to very high altitudes and mountainous areas, cedar tree grows to a height of about 30-40 m. It is a popular ornamental plant in temperate regions. The wood has a mild scent and attractive texture, which makes it a valuable timber.