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9 Different Types of Conifer Trees

Norway Spruce

There are tons of different conifer trees. Conifers are any tree that does not have deciduous leaves. In other words, conifers keep their leaves all year round – not lose them like deciduous trees. They are easily identified by their pine-like needles and cones. In fact, there are over six hundred types of conifer trees, though they are divided into different families.

In this article, we’ll take a look at nine different families and some of the more popular trees within them.

To tell each species apart, you’ll need to take a look at the needles, cones, bark, and shape of each tree. These trees can look rather similar to each other, though these small parts can help you tell them apart.

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The 9 Different Types of Conifer Trees

1. Cedar Trees

cedar trees
Image Credit: Pixabay

Cedars are one of the more popular conifer trees. They are used various types of furniture and other wooden items, like cedar boxes. They have a unique smell, and some people believe that you can ID them simply based on how they smell. However, this is not necessarily true, as there are many other trees that also smell like conifers.

Actually, there are only four different types of conifer trees, which are all found in Europe and Asia. However, there are other species that are commonly identified as cedar trees. These are referred to as “false cedars” and often have “cedar” in their common name, though they don’t actually belong to this species.

These trees usually produce dense clusters of needles, which range from 1 to 2 inches long. They also produce barrel-shaped cones that point upwards from the branch.


2. Pine Trees

sugar pines in the mountains
Image Credit: Ken Wolter, Shutterstock

Pine trees are the most common representation of conifers. Many people mistakenly believe that all conifers are pine trees, though this is not the case. There are between 220 to 250 different species, depending on who you ask. Some people lump certain trees together as the same species, while other people separate them out into ore species.

Most of these species are in temperate climates, with one of their largest ranges being in North America. However, some species are found in the subarctic all the way to the tropics. This type of conifer tree is extremely widespread, which you need to keep in mind when you’re identifying these trees.

This family is often dominant in montane, boreal, and coastal forests.


3. Fir Trees

Subalpine Fir Trees
Image Credit: Randy Bjorklund, Shutterstock

Fir trees are quite common and look a bit like pine trees, so they are often grouped together with them. This family is found throughout most of the continents, including Europe, Asia, North Africa, and Central America. They are usually in the mountains in these areas, preferring high altitudes. Firs are very closely related to cedars and are often mistakenly considered cedars.

Conversely, many trees that are popularly called Firs are not actually Firs. For instance, Douglas Firs are not actually Fir trees at all.

The term “fir” comes from the Latin word “to rise.” This word is a reference to the tree’s great height. They can sometimes reach heights of 262 feet, though most are much shorter. You can identify Firs by the way their needle-like leaves form like suction cups. Their cones are also upright on their branches and look a bit like candles.


4. Spruce Trees

spruce tree in the field
Image Credit: Pixabay

There are only a few species in the Spruce family – 35 to be in fact. For this reason, they are one of the smaller conifer types. They are found in northern regions, particularly in temperate and boreal areas.

They are decently large trees that can reach between 60 to 200 feet tall. Their needles are four-sided, and their cones hang downwards after they are pollinated. These characteristics set them apart from other types of conifers.

Spruce trees shed their leaves when they are 4-10 years old. During this period, their branches will be rough with retained pegs. In some cases, these trees do have smooth branches, though.

These trees play an important role in the lifecycle of some insect species. For instance, they are eaten by some moth and butterfly species.

While many of these species reproduce through normal means, there are some reports of the Norway spruce reproducing through layering. In fact, the oldest Norway spruce is reported to be 9,550 years old.


5. Larch Trees

eastern larch
Image Credit: meunierd, Shutterstock

Larch trees are one of the few deciduous conifers, which means that they shed their pine needles regularly. Just like broad-leaf trees, these conifers will lose their needles every autumn. They are the dominant tree in the boreal forests of Canada and Siberia.

These trees usually reach around 65 to 120 feet tall. Typically, these trees are less common than other conifers and are often confused as other trees because they lose their needles.


6. Cypress Trees

Arizona cypress trees
Image Credit: Marinodenisenko, Shutterstock

Cypress is another type of conifer. They are smaller than other trees, only growing to about 5-40 m tall. The leaves grow in opposite pairs and stay on for about three to five years. After that, they fall off. The leaves are about 5-15 mm long.

The cones take a bit to mature. Some don’t mature from pollination for two years. The seeds are quite small, and there are two narrow wings on each side.

There are many different types of cypress trees. Most are adapted in some way to forest fires. In some cases, the cones only open during wildfires after the mother tree has been destroyed. Then, the cone is released onto the bare ground, where they have little competition.

However, some species do simply release the seeds when they mature.


7. Juniper Trees

greek juniper trees on the cliff
Image Credit: Pixabay

Junipers contain about 50 to 67 species. It does depend on who you ask, as some species are grouped together by some and not by others. They are distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including the arctic and tropical Africa. They are also in the mountains of Central America.

They like the higher altitudes. In fact, they grow in the northern Himalayans, where they create one of the highest forests in the world.


8. Yew Trees

Japanese Yew
Image Credit: Pixabay

There isn’t actually a type of tree called the Yew. Instead, this term is used to refer to many different species that just happen to have the term “yew.” Many of these trees belong to the Taxus genus, which is also known as the yew family. However, there are some species that are referred to as “yew” that don’t actually belong to this family.

These trees are relatively long-lived and relatively slow-growing. They can reach up to 65 feet, though this is quite short compared to other trees on this list. This species is also very old, with fossils found from the Early Cretaceous.

These trees are often known as being poisonous. However, toxin changes between species. Some seeds are dangerously poisonous. Birds can often eat them fine because they cannot break down the outside of the seed. However, humans can, which releases the toxins inside the seed.


9. Redwood Trees

giant redwood trees
Image Credit: Pixabay

These extremely tall trees are the biggest in the world. There are three subspecies of this breed, with most of them located in California. However, there is one that is native to China. However, this species is much smaller than the others.

These trees can live for thousands of years. However, there are quite a few threats to this species, such as logging, fires, and climate change.

Related Read: 13 Different Types of Willow Trees

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Conclusion

There are a few different types of conifers. However, the differences are not always that obvious, and they sometimes get confused for each other. For instance, there are quite a few trees that are referred to as cedar. However, they aren’t actually related to cedar at all.

With that said, there are many species that are pretty obvious. No one is going to mistake most redwoods, for instance (except for the species that is native to China, perhaps).


Featured Image Credit: RoxannaR, Shutterstock

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