8 Different Types of Conifer Trees with Pictures

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by Max - last update on July 8, 2020, 8:36 am
Types of Conifer Trees

Conifers refer to a division of plants known as Pinophyta, though this division is also sometimes known as Coniferophyta or Coniferae, which is where the common name of ‘conifer’ comes from. These trees primarily grow in the northern hemisphere and produce needle or scaly foliage and bear cones. Conifers are predominantly evergreen trees though there are a few exceptions to this. Most types of conifers are medium to very large trees, though some examples of conifer plants take the shape of shrubs. They make excellent ornamental trees and, in general, are very easy to grow, hence their popularity.

Discover more about the different types of conifer trees here.

1. Cedar Trees

Cedar Trees

Scientific Name: Cedrus sp.

Mature Size: Up to 160 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-11

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: Atlas Cedar-Cedrus atlantica, Deodar Cedar-Cedrus deodara, Cedar of Lebanon-Cedrus libani, Cyprian Cedar-Cedrus brevifolia

These evergreen trees are typically native to mountainous regions around the world. They can grow to great heights, though there are also many dwarf varieties that remain small and can make good hedges or ornamental shrubs. These trees produce needle-like foliage, which in some instances, will give off an attractive fragrance when crushed. Foliage can range in color from deep green to blue-green. There are four types of true cedar trees that belong to the Cedrus genus, though there are also several ‘false’ cedar trees, which are commonly referred to as cedar trees but do not belong to the cedar genus. True cedars belong to the family of pine trees, called Pinaceae. Many cedar trees are cultivated for their lumber, which is strong and durable, with a slightly red color.

Cedar trees grow natively in areas that typically experience high levels of rainfall; however, they do not cope well with wet roots. Therefore, cedar trees need to be grown in well-draining soil to prevent soggy roots. As long as the soil is well-draining, cedar trees will tolerate a range of soil types, including clay soils and poor soils. They enjoy consistent moisture when young but have a good tolerance of drought once established.

2. Cypress Trees

Cypress Trees

Scientific Name: Cupressus sp.

Mature Size: Up to 115 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-11

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Low moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: Monterey Cypress-Cupressus macrocarpa, Italian Cypress-Cupressus sempervirens, Arizona Cypress-Cupressus arizonica

These trees are evergreen conifers that grow natively in warm climates around the world, with several varieties being native to the western United States. They range in size but are generally medium to large-sized trees, with some smaller varieties growing as tall shrubs. These trees grow easily in climates with mild winters and have a good tolerance to drought. They are a low-maintenance tree that forms attractive pyramid or cylinder shapes that don’t need to be pruned.

Cypress trees produce round or oblong cones that take around two years to mature; after that, they will open to release seeds. The foliage of these trees is scaly needles, which can grow in rounded or flattened sprays. Some trees have an upright habit, while others have pendulous, weeping branches. These trees are popularly cultivated for their ornamental value, and for their tolerance of high wind in coastal regions. The lumber of these trees is also produced commercially for its resistance to rot. Grow these trees in well-draining soil in a position of full sun.

3. Pine Trees

Pine Trees

Scientific Name: Pinus sp.

Mature Size: Up to 260 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-11

Light: Full sun

Water: Average water needs

Soil: Well-draining, acidic

Cultivars and Varieties: Jack Pine-Pinus banksiana, Shore Pine-Pinus contorta, Limber Pine-Pinus flexilis, Sugar Pine-Pinus lambertiana

Pine trees are evergreen conifers belonging to the Pinus genus, which is the largest genus in the Pine family (Pinaceae). The Pine family is the largest family of conifer trees, and also the oldest. Pines can grow to very large trees, and in few cases, remain small enough to be considered as shrubs. They are easily identified by their foliage that takes the shape of long and soft needles, which grow in clusters along the branches.

Cones appear at the tip of the branches and can remain on the tree for many years, or fall to the ground. Cones can vary in size from half an inch to two inches long, and they are a pale to medium brown when mature. The bark of pine trees is considered to be attractive, with thick scales that sometimes become flaky. These are fast-growing trees that are some of the most commercially important trees in the world for their lumber and wood pulp. They are also cultivated for use as Christmas trees, and for their pine needles that can be used in crafting and decoration making. These trees are popularly grown in parks and public spaces for their ornamental value.

They prefer acidic, sandy soil, though some varieties of pine will tolerate poor soils. Most types of pine trees prefer cooler climates and struggle in high temperatures, though some are suitable for growing in hot climates.

4. Yew Trees

Yew Trees

Scientific Name: Taxus sp.

Mature Size: Up to 60 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun, partial shade, and full shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: American Yew-Taxus canadensis, English Yew-Taxus baccata, Japanese Yew-Taxus cuspidata, Chinese Yew-Taxus chinensis

Yew trees are a slow-growing and long-lived group of evergreen conifers. Compared to many other types of conifers, they are quite small, reaching maximum heights of up to 60 feet. The foliage of yew trees is flat needles that are typically deep green or gray-green. Female trees produce vivid coral-red cones that add a very ornamental quality to the yew trees. They are popularly cultivated in home gardens as both trees or hedges and are often pruned into topiaries or formal screens.

One of the great things about yew trees is how tolerant they are of a wide range of growing conditions, making them suitable for many different types of gardens. They will tolerate full shade or full sun, and almost any soil so long as it is well-draining. There are over 400 different cultivars of yew trees, and all of these are toxic to humans. If ingested, it can cause aches, rashes, and even death.

5. Juniper Trees

Juniper Trees

Scientific Name: Juniperus sp.

Mature Size: Up to 130 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-9

Light: Full sun

Water: Low moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, sandy

Cultivars and Varieties: Chinese Juniper-Juniperus chinensis, Common Juniper-Juniperus communis, Creeping Juniper-Juniperus horizontalis, Flaky Juniper-Juniperus squamata

Junipers are evergreen conifers that can take the shape of medium to large trees, or various sized shrubs. There are over 50 different types of juniper, which are found natively across the northern hemisphere. The foliage of junipers can be needle-like or scaley, typically in deep green. Sometimes the foliage can be sharp, making the plant difficult to handle. They produce seed cones that are softer than most types of conifer trees and look like fleshy berries. They range in color from warm shades of orange and red, but most commonly are blue and have a strong resemblance to blueberries. These berries can be used to produce spices or essential oils, but are most famously known for their use in making gin.

Juniper trees will grow in a wide range of climates and conditions, with the ability to thrive in rocky and dry soils, or moist and well-draining soils.

6. Spruce Trees

Spruce Trees

Scientific Name: Picea sp.

Mature Size: Up to 200 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-8

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, acidic

Cultivars and Varieties: Norway Spruce-Picea abies, White Spruce-Picea glauca, Black Spruce-Picea mariana, Colorado Spruce-Picea pungens

Spruce trees are evergreen conifers that belong to the genus Picea in the Pine family. Their foliage is needle-like, and each needle has four sides, which is one of the easiest ways to distinguish a spruce tree from other types of pine trees. The needles are stiff and are arranged around the branches in spirals. These trees produce cones that dangle at a downward angle on the ends of the branches and will fall from the tree the year after they arrive.

These trees are popular as ornamental trees in home gardens and public parks, and they are also cultivated for their various commercial uses. Spruce trees are an important source of pulp for making paper, and they are also used to make timber for woodworking. Spruce wood is not resistant to rot or insects, and therefore is predominantly used for interior building projects.

These trees grow best in acidic soil but will tolerate any well-draining soil. They thrive in full sun but can also tolerate some shade.

7. Fir Trees

Fir Trees

Scientific Name: Abies sp.

Mature Size: Up to 260 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, acidic

Cultivars and Varieties: Balsam Fir-Abies balsamea, Greek Fir-Abies cephalonica, White Fir-Abies concolor, Korean Fir-Abies koreana

Fir trees are evergreen conifers that belong to the Abies genus in the Pine family. They are native to mountainous regions in cold climates, growing naturally throughout much of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Americas. The leaves of these trees are needle-like, and each leaf is uniquely attached to the branch by a suction-like cup at its base. This feature is the easiest way to identify a fir tree and distinguish it from other members of the Pine family. The cones of fir trees differ from those on all other conifers by the way they are held. They resemble candlesticks, standing upright on the branches.

Fir trees are widely cultivated for their pulp, though their timber is not in high demand. Many varieties are also popular as cut Christmas trees. Balsam fir, Nordmann fir, and noble fir are all known for their attractive festive scent, and the way in that they do not drop many needles, even once the tree has dried out, making them ideal for use as Christmas trees.

Fir trees grow easily with little care needed. They thrive in full sun but will tolerate some shade, and prefer well-draining and acidic soils but are quite adaptable to a wide range of soils. They like consistent moisture but are also tolerant of drought once established.

8. Redwood Trees

Redwood Trees

Scientific Name: Sequoioideae subfamily

Mature Size: Up to 380 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: Dawn Redwood-Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Coast Redwood-Sequoia sempervirens, Giant Sequoia Redwood-Sequoiadendron giganteum

Redwood trees belong to the subfamily of Sequoioideae in the Cypress family. This subfamily is considered to be endangered, largely due to air pollution, climate change, and fire. Redwood trees comprise three genera; Metasequoia, Sequoia, and Sequoiadendron. These trees are native to China, and California, the US. The foliage of these trees takes the shape of flat, flexible needles, which appear in bright green sprays along the branches. These trees have a long life expectancy of around 200 years and take an astounding 400 years to reach maturity.

Redwoods are famous for being the tallest trees in the world, and they typically reach around 300 feet in height, though some specimens have been known to grow as tall as 380 feet. They are also known to be the largest, with a total trunk volume of 52,500 cubic feet.

Redwoods grow easily in their native habitats and are known to be among the fastest growing types of conifer trees in the world, adding around three feet to their height each year. They will thrive in well-draining soils that are kept consistently moist. They will tolerate wet soils, but cannot survive in dry conditions.

8 Different Types of Conifer Trees with Pictures

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