Types of Conifer Trees

Updated February 21, 2017

Conifers grow from the tundra to the equator and include both the tallest and oldest trees in existence. These trees have design features such as coated leaves and slow growth rates that help conifers stay green all year, allowing them to take advantage of winter sunlight not available to other deciduous plants. This design has allowed the conifer to adapt to several living environments, changing into different families and species along the way.


Growing from the tundra to the southern United States, pine trees are some of the most recognisable conifers. Pines come in several varieties including white, red and Scotch pine. They are often used as Christmas trees and their wood is used heavily in manufacturing.


Featuring a lush cone shaped crown and stiff, spiky needles, the spruce is one of the most popular Christmas trees. Spruce wood also has a good acoustic sound and is often used in the construction of guitars and other acoustic instruments.


Hemlock trees are some of the longest-lived trees, growing for 250 to 300 years before maturity and then living for more than 800 years under the right conditions. The Eastern Hemlock is the state tree of Pennsylvania and was used by pioneers as a building material for log cabins.


Unlike many other conifers, cedar trees feature a scaly needle that is thicker and more succulent than other needles. Cedar species such as the western red cedar and the Spanish cedar are cultivated for use in flooring or cabinet construction.


With species including the Sequoiadendron giganteum, the largest tree in the world, redwood trees stand out not only for their distinctive and valuable wood. Redwood trees grow along the West Coast of the United States and in mountain slopes near Hubei, China. All of these trees are endangered.


Short, scaly, tightly overlapping needles are the juniper tree's trademark along with flaky grey bark. This tree type grows on both coasts of the United States as well as England and parts of Asia. Juniper trees are often used as bonsai trees because of their sculptability.


The fir tree, including the Douglas fir, is another favoured Christmas tree and building material. Species such as the West Coast Douglas fir are the second-tallest tree in the world.


The yew has soft, straight needles and globe shaped cones. This tree grows throughout Europe and North America and is often used as an ornamental tree in landscaping.


Growing over 100 feet, the larch maintains a short, cone shaped crown with much of the trunk exposed to the elements. The larch has branches that are covered with needles on all sides, looking slightly like a bottle brush.

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About the Author

Sean Russell has been writing since 1999 and has contributed to several magazines, including "Spin" and "Art Nouveau." When not writing, Sean helps maintain community gardens in Silver Lake and Echo Park, California. Russell also worked extensively on the restoration and rejuvenation of public parks in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi after damage from 2004-2005 hurricanes.