The adaptation of coniferous trees

Updated July 19, 2017

All trees must adapt to survive winter. The group of trees known as conifers have their own adaptations for cold, harsh conditions. These adaptations helped make conifers the most populous species of tree in the world.


Conifers developed needle-like leaves that allow the trees to survive in freezing conditions. The shape and waxy texture of the leaves do not allow snow to accumulate on the tree, maintaining a low weight load and keeping stress off the branches. The waxy coating, called cutin, also limits water loss.

Extracellular freezing

Conifers developed a method of protection from harsh weather called extracellular freezing. Some liquids in the tree move through empty spaces and freeze on the outside to insulate inner cells.

Fun fact

Conifer means "to bear cones," in Latin. However, there are two kinds of conifers, junipers and yews, which bear fruit instead.

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About the Author

Briana Alfaro attended Humboldt State University, where she wrote and edited for the "Lumberjack" newspaper and "Osprey Magazine." Her work has also appeared in the "North Coast Journal," "Today's Local News" and the "San Diego Union-Tribune." She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism.