Tree identification

Conifer identification

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 is

Conifer trunks

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.

Growth of conifers

The growth habit of most conifers is upright and pyramidal, if the main stem was not damaged by deer during its early youth. Typical representatives of this growth type are spruce and fir trees. Pine and cedar also have this habit when young. Full-grown pines lose their pyramidal shape and develop loose crowns at their uppermost end. In the case of cedars, the typical roof forms grow with age, whereby several trees may stand together to form a common crown. Conifer - bloom The pollination of conifers occurs by wind. Therefore, these trees completely do without petals that attract insects. The flowering of conifers is therefore usually very discreet. The female flower usually already shows a precursor of the later cone-shape; some are coloured conspicuously. Male flowers usually have yellow, green, brown or reddish scaly, cylindrical projections on the branches, which disperse whole swaths of pollen given the appropriate weather. The red-coloured male pollination organs are striking, particularly in the case of Biota trees (Tree of Life).

Fruit forms

The fruit of conifers are usually not of a fleshy type, but rather, with seed-bearing woody cones. Exceptions here are yews and juniper. Yew seeds are surrounded by a bright red fleshy sheath. In the case of the juniper, the cone has a berry-like shape. There are a still a few representatives of conifers which have very unusual cone shapes - namely Biota trees (Tree of Life) and Cypress trees.

Cone shapes

Typical of native conifers are their clearly recognizable woody cones and the individual seeds between their scales. Conifer cones react to moisture. In wet weather, they close their scales tightly together - even when ripe, while during dry weather they spread open to let their seeds fall out. Even the outer cone shape often gives some indication of what kind of tree it is. Pine cones grow upright on the branches, while pinnacle pines and spruce cones grow hanging from branches. The small, smooth larch cones stand in tight rows on the branch. Conifers are also quickly identifiable while on the move using the tree-identification app on

Information regarding the identification of the deciduous tree