Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Conifers,  translated literally as cone bearer, are cone-bearing seed trees or shrubs belonging to the division Pinophyta or Coniferophyta.  They include cedars, cypresses, firs, junipers, larches, pines, redwoods, spruces, and yews.

A conifer tree reproduces by seeds formed in a cone rather than a flower. Conifers have needle like leaves, often dark green in colour which helps to absorb sunlight in shady conditions.

Most conifers are evergreen, retaining their leaves during the winter, but not all.  Larch (Larix) looks similar to other conifers during the summer but loses it needles during the winter. Other deciduous conifers include Pseudolarix, Glyptostrobus, Metasequoia and Taxodium.

A conifer is distinct from evergreen trees and the terms should not be confused. Conifers are distinguished by their reproduction (the cone) and evergreen refers to the retention of its leaves or needles.

Deciduous trees

Deciduous means falling off in maturity.  Deciduous trees show a seasonal pattern of leaf growth and lose all of their leaves for part of the year. They include chestnut, oak, elm, maple and ash.

They grow leaves, usually during the summer, and shed them at the end of the growing season.  Most have large, broad leaves which allow for a much more effective photosynthesis than coniferous trees. 

However because of this broad leaf structure deciduous trees are much more vulnerable in windy and winter conditions. Shedding their leaves also means that they prevent water loss through their leaves and protects against predators.

In temperate zones deciduous trees shed their leaves in the autumn. A loss of chlorophyll in the leaf is triggered by the drop in temperature and gives these trees their distinctive autumn colours.  In tropical and sub tropical zones the leaf loss is not seasonal but determined by a lack of rain fall.

Deciduous is the opposite of evergreen, whose foliage persist throughout the year and gives the tree an evergreen appearance.

For related articles click onto:
What is a tree?
What is a potager?
What is a vegetable?
What is the difference between a conifer and a deciduous tree?
Which plant has the largest seed?
Which plant has the largest leaves?
Which plant has the largest flower?
Vegetable crop rotation
What is autumn colour?

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