by Linnea West, MBG Tree Team
photos by Jan Castillo, MBG Tree Team
Conifers, “cone-bearing plants”, are an ancient plant line extending back 300 million years into Upper Carboniferous times.
Conifers are mostly evergreen and on our continent include pine, spruce, fir, cedar, arborvitae, juniper, hemlock, yew, sequoia and others. Two North American genera, larch and bald cypress, are deciduous, losing their needles in winter.
Most conifers reproduce via wind pollination. Nearly all are monoecious, “one house”, with both male and female cones on the same tree. The male cones (yellow or red) are smaller and short-lived, releasing their abundant pollen in the gusting winds of March and April. The female seed-cones are woody and differ in shape and size by species of tree. They range from less than ½ inch to nearly 2 feet long. In junipers and yews the female cone resembles a berry.