Identification of conifers is initially much more confusing than in the
case of deciduous trees. But even here, there are clear features to be found
for conifer identification.
Needles - Shape
Conifer leaves are long and narrow. They are not always dark green. There
are also blue-green, light green, yellow-green, or even off-white and yellow
needles. Conifer needles can be short (Yews, Spruces, Larches and Cedar),
medium length (Fir) or long (Pine). Fir needles have a rounded end with
a notch and they grow directly from the branch, while pine needles have
little brown stems. Another feature of pine needles is their quadrangular
cross-section. Spruce and pine needles have a pointed end. In the case of
representatives of the Biota tree or Tree of Life group, the needles are
covered with fine longitudinal scales.
Needles - Arrangement
An important distinguishing feature is the arrangement of the needles on
the branch. The needles can grow on the branch individually (Fir, Spruce,
Yew). Two or more needles appear from each root in pines, cedar, larches
and juniper. Pine needles tend to grow in rows to the right and left of
the branch. With only few exceptions, the pine needles are spirally arranged
on the stem. Pine needles measure 4 cm or more in length. Larch and cedar
needles are short and the tufts are usually a typically blue-green colour.
As the only native conifer, the larch colours itself yellow in winter and
loses its needles. The juniper displays needles, which when at a young stage,
are more like narrow leaves. A good aid for the identification of conifers
Conifer trunks are usually smooth at a young stage. Needles and small branches
that are located on the young stem are later left behind on the bark of
the tree. With age, depending on the type, the tree develops cracks and
loose parts on the bark. The colour and structure of the bark is another
useful sign when identifying conifers.