Types of Coniferous Trees: Forest Conifers Vs. Deciduous Vs. Evergreen

Man looking at a group of coniferous trees wonders what types of coniferous trees and conifer trees are there and how to identify conifers and growing locations for trees with cones.

You probably know that there is more than one species of evergreen, but when examining types of Coniferous trees, do you know the difference between conifers, deciduous and evergreens?

There’s one major difference that sets conifer trees apart from evergreens and trees with leaves that are shed each season…with coniferous trees, they retain both their needles and their cones year round.

Coniferous trees hold on to their leaves (needles) and cones all year round, maintaining that healthy evergreen appearance no matter the season.

And, since there are many types, this complete guide outlines the most commonly asked questions about this type of tree and offers tips and ways to identify types of coniferous trees.

Conifer Trees (Trees With Cones?)

Some trees look like Conifers with similar cones and leaves, even act like Conifers, but then they have no choice but to drop the pretense in the fall and shed their leaves and cones.

Types of coniferous trees graphic showing various pine trees, fir trees, and other coniferous trees.

Can Conifers be both evergreen and deciduous?

The short answer is, yes.

There are over 600 species of Coniferous trees and some of them are as different from one another as they are the same.

The characteristics that Conifer trees have are their sole ability to reproduce exclusively from their cones, and all conifers have cones.8

Those cones, although they differ in size and shape, are their main distinguishing feature as are the needle-like foliage, which is sometimes green, sometimes not. They are also famous for their Christmas tree appearance, but this is where the most variance occurs as some conifers extend over 300 feet towards the heavens, while others pretty much hug the ground at 1 foot tall.

The Difficulty in How To Identify Coniferous Trees

Calling all Coniferous trees with a cone an Evergreen Conifer would lead to disappointment when the leaves turn a golden brown and tumble from the branches in the fall. With so many species, identifying one of these particular types of trees because of their wide diversity is far from easy, especially when they look the same from a distance but ever-so-slightly differ on closer inspection.

Take the needle-like leaves, for example.

On some species, the leaves are attached to the branches in clusters of just 2, or 3, or 5, or even individually. As a sole method of identification, the pointed leaves, which are also sometimes flat, soft, and not pointed, are somewhat unreliable.

Identification by the cones is just as unpredictable.

The scales can be either rigid, separate, overlapping, thick and tough, or more malleable to the touch. This confusion is only amplified by the different shades of brown, various colors, and discrepancies in the sizes.

The color of the cones is generally a variation of brown, but they can be purple, red, green, pink, and even yellow. On top of that, they can grow from 2cm up to 2 feet long, stand upright on a branch, or hang pendulously below it.

The color and texture of the bark won’t help much in the identification process by itself either, running fully from smooth to rough, to flaky to peeling, and from reddish brown to orange-red, and to a thick scaly gray.

Differentiating a Coniferous tree from another based solely on just one of these features would be nigh on impossible. The key is to use all of them together.

Types of Coniferous Trees

The 615 species of Coniferous trees are made up of 8 main families and several subfamilies. They are Pine, Cypress, Cedar, Juniper, Spruce, Firs, Yew, Redwood, Douglas Firs, Larches, Hemlocks, and Kauri.

The Pine family, Pinaceae, is the largest with over 200 species and is known for its pine cones. It is also used to pose as Christmas trees along with the equally iconically-shaped and even more popular spruces and firs.

Let’s see how we can tell them apart.

Species of Coniferous TreeDescription of ConesDescription of LeavesDescription of Bark
Cypress (Cupressus)3-4cm long. Changes from green to brown after 24 monthsArranged in whorls, stiff, and sharp.
Reddish-brown, scaly bark that peels away in long strips
Cedar (Cedrus deodara)118-12cm long.
Gray-brown with an ovoid shape
Flat, soft, and flexible.
Dark bark that has ridges and is cracked
Junipers (Juniperus)1-2cm in size. Round and resembling berries, these cones are purpleSometimes scaly, and always hard and sharp. EvergreenGray-brown and like many of this species peels away with age
Larch (Larix)3–4cm long. Quite large scales on a reddish brown cone. Stand erectSlim and grow in clusters. This species is DeciduousDeeply fissured and reddish brown when the tree ages
Closeup of a woody Juniper Shrub showing light green leaves.

Junipers are one of the Coniferous Trees. (Image: Ralphs_Fotos13)

Species of Coniferous TreeDescription of ConesDescription of LeavesDescription of Bark
Pine (Pinus)3–7.5cm long. The colors start out as red when young, then from green to gray-brown on maturityNeedle leaves that grow in big spirals clusters.
Dark brown coloring when mature. It has layered plates that are thick and scaly
Hemlock (Tsuga)1.5–3cm long with an oval shape and soft scalesQuiet short and flat and cause branches to droop.
Thick, flat plates that are reddish-brown
Spruce (Picea)10-20cm long with light brown diamond-shaped scalesShort and sharp, and very stiff.
Deeply furrowed with a color range of light gray to dark gray
Firs (Abies)Up to 22 cm long. Cones grow erect instead of hanging down. Brown with a green tingeThey grow individually, not in clusters, and are medium-sized.
When young the bark is smooth, but thickens with age and turns a darker gray
Closeup of Manchurian Fir Abies showing green cylindrical-shaped cones and green short pines needles.

(Image: Darekk219)

Species of Coniferous TreeDescription of ConesDescription of LeavesDescription of Bark
Redwood (Sequoioideae)2-7.5cm long. Dark brown and egg-shapedFlat and soft.
The bark is very thick and fibrous.
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)10cm long. Female cones are bright redSoft and green.
Deep grooves etched into a thick dark brown bark
Yews (Taxus)3–6 cm long. The cones are red and very smallDark green and flat and narrow to a point. EvergreenThin, brown bark and come away in small flaky scales
Kauri (Araucariaceae)The cones are oval and brown in appearanceThick with a leathery texture.
The bark is dark gray and smooth, becoming flaky as the tree ages

What Is the Difference Between Deciduous vs Coniferous Trees?

Deciduous trees shed their leaves and go dormant in the fall,7 and bear fruits and bloom flowers. As autumn approaches, the leaves often change colors to a golden yellow, a deep orange, or a rich red before falling off the branches.

Coniferous trees, on the other hand, do not grow flowers or bear fruits, growing cones instead, and maintaining the same green coloring on their leaves all year round.

But saying that, the term ‘Evergreen’ doesn’t specifically relate to the color of the leaves, but the fact that the leaves survive all year round. Sort of.

Another misconception about the leaves on Coniferous trees is that they never fall off. That is not entirely accurate.

Like any tree, the life of its leaves is finite, and they do indeed fall off. What Coniferous trees do to camouflage this absence, to maintain their forever-green image, is to sprout another one in its place immediately before the gap can be noticed, a bit like a magic trick.

The lumber between the two is also different.

The wood of Deciduous trees is classified as hardwood and used to produce sturdy furniture, while Conifers are softwood and used to make products like paper, plywood, and window frames.

Types of Pine Trees (Coniferous Forest and Growing Zones for Coniferous Trees: Where To Grow Them)

The largest Coniferous forest in the world is in Canada in a biome-protected zone that encompasses an area of over 1.6 million hectares. To put that into context, a country the size of Belgium would comfortably fit within its confines twice over.

Also called Boreal forests or Taigas, these dense forests can also be found in countries like Sweden, Russia, Norway, the north of Japan, and even in the Scottish highlands. The geographical location of the Taiga determines which types of Coniferous trees grow there.

Spruce, Larches, and Pines are mostly present in all of them, and in the case of Pine Trees that is not surprising considering there are so many species.

Here are just a few of types of Pine Trees that grow in Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean, Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and South America.

Common NameScientific Name
Sand PinePinus clausa
Spruce PinePinus glabra
Longleaf PinePinus palustris
Red PinePinus resinosa
Pitch PinePinus rigida
Eastern White PinePinus strobus
Loblolly Pine6Pinus taeda
Virginia PinePinus virginiana
Rocky Mountains Bristlecone PinePinus aristata
Single-Leaf PinyonPinus monophylla
Closeup of Rocky Mountains Bristlecone Pine Tree showing clusters of young pinecones and green fine needles.

Rocky Mountains Bristlecone Pine Tree is one of the Coniferous Trees species. (Image: Annette Meyer14)

Common NameScientific Name
Southwestern White PinePinus strobiformis
Turkish PinePinus brutia
Canary Island PinePinus canariensis
Swiss PinePinus cembra
European Black Pine, Austrian PinePinus nigra
Stone PinePinus pinea
Scots PinePinus sylvestris
Chinese White PinePinus armandii
Bhutan White PinePinus bhutanica
Vietnamese White PinePinus dalatensis
Closeup of Chinese White Pine Tree showing its green young pine cone and green long needles.

The Chinese White Pine Tree is one of the Coniferous Trees growing in the Asian Region. (Image: Jarmila15)

Common NameScientific Name
Korean Red PinePinus densiflora
Korean PinePinus koraiensis
Japanese White PinePinus parviflora
Siberian PinePinus sibirica
Blue Pine or Bhutan PinePinus wallichiana
Lodgepole PinePinus contorta
Ponderosa PinePinus ponderosa
Arizona PinePinus arizonica
Caribbean PinePinus caribaea
Mexican PinyonPinus cembroides
Cuban PinePinus cubensis

Coniferous Trees Facts (Types of Coniferous Trees: Conifers vs Deciduous vs Evergreens Coniferous Forest)

The first interesting thing to know about Coniferous trees is that the name Conifer in Latin means ‘the one that bears cones.’ very accurate as all true Conifers, whether they are Deciduous or Evergreen, bear cones.

Evergreen trees that have the iconic pyramidal shape but bear fruits and bloom flowers, however, are not conifers.

Here are 5 fast facts you may not be aware of about Conifers

  1. The largest Pine cone weighs 5 kg and is 50cm long from the Coulter Pine Tree.
  2. Because they thrive in cold boreal weather temperatures experienced in Siberian forests and the near-freezing Taiga average temperatures in Canada, the leaves have evolved to be smooth and waxy. This helps when there is heavy snow so it will slide away rather than weigh down the leaves.
  3. The needles can be brewed into a vitamin-C-packed tea.
  4. If a burrowing insect eats holes into the bark, the tree can seal those holes with a soft resin that quickly hardens to protect itself from further invasions.
  5. Due to the vast areas and numerous countries where they are located, Coniferous trees are one of the most carbon-absorbent trees in the world.

Taiga Facts and Coniferous Forest Animals There

The Taiga forest in Canada is an amazing sanctuary for millions of trees,10 and it also provides shelter for a diverse range of animals who are safe and protected within its confines.

Black bears, Grizzly bears, moose, lynx endemic to Canada, and bobcats are just some of the mammals that reside there, thick coats and wide paws helping them to survive the cold winters and the deep snow.

Birds such as grouse and woodpeckers call this vast forest home as do untold species of insects.

There are some other facts about this forest that are truly eye-opening.

  • There are 32,000 species of insects that thrive in the Canadian boreal forest along with more than 300 species of birds and 85 species of mammals.
  • The summer temperatures can reach as high as 70-80° in the height of the summer months, and then plunge to a teeth-chattering -65° below in the depths of the winter.
  • The Taiga is part of the boreal zone that stretches from the Yukon to Newfoundland and actually covers nearly 15% of the Earth’s surface 1.9 billion hectares.
  • Natural disasters like fires actually assist the forest with its regeneration needs to renew the old with the new, forcing the ecosystem to regrow fresh trees and rejuvenate plants regularly.
  • A large percentage of communities of aboriginal people live and work in this boreal zone.
  • The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was signed in 2010 to protect 170 million acres from logging companies that were in danger of deforesting large swathes of Coniferous trees in the Taiga forest.

Conifers and Coniferous Trees Seeds

Because Coniferous trees do not have flowers, their method of reproduction is managed by the seeds within the cones. Conifers have both male and female cones, the males containing the pollen and the females the seeds.

A conic-shaped pinecone and Pine Tree branch on top of a wooden surface.

(Image: Andreas Lischka16)

Pollination generally occurs when the pollen is blown onto the female cones. Maturation can happen within a few weeks up to several years later depending on the tree species.

When that time arrives, the scales open wide enough to release the seeds to the mercy of the wind and rain to spread them far and wide.

Some species, such as the Lodgepole Pine,9 rely on wildfires to instigate the seed release mechanism, the destructive force of nature actually instigating the start of new life.

How Long It Takes To Grow Coniferous Trees (Best Growing Conditions for Coniferous Trees)

A soil that drains away water in an efficient manner is the preferred growing medium for Coniferous trees, and shade is preferable in the afternoon while full sunshine is ideal for the rest of the day.

Even under ideal conditions, it can take a conifer tree between 20-50 years to grow to maturity. Every year it can grow up to a foot in height so even before it has grown to its full height it can be towering above nearby trees.

Which Beetles Are Common Pests of the Coniferous Trees? (Natural Pest Control for Coniferous Trees)

Perhaps because of its enormous size, the boreal forest in Canada has its fair share of pests that threaten the health, and sometimes the lives, of the Coniferous trees within it.

Here is a list of the invasive players on and off the boreal playing forest.

Bark Beetles

Bark beetles are tiny pests that can cause a lot of damage. They are generally brown or black and no bigger than 8mm.

As soon as one of them has found a weakened tree to infest, it emits a pheromone that alerts other beetles to attack the new victim.

The females create tunnels within the tree called galleries to lay their eggs, and once they hatch they, like their adult counterparts, continue to feast on the inner cadmium. And create more galleries.

This network, along with the pathogenic blue fungus that they leave behind that acts as a clogging agent, severs the inner water veins that transport fluids throughout the tree.

Once the larvas are ready to enter the wide world after they have mortally wounded their present habitat, they cause further havoc by chewing themselves back out through the bark

Type of BeetleSize and ColorSigns and Symptoms
Black turpentine beetle (Dendroctonus terebrans)5-12 mm long
Brown to black with fine hairs
Large holes with discarded pellets at the base of the tree
Engraver Beetles12.5-6.5mm long
Reddish brown to black across the various types, some of which are white grubs
Red-brown dust gathering in the crevices of the bark, and the presence of numerous exit holes from the adults
Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae)5mm long
Black with a hard exoskeleton
Pitch tubes are indications of infestations. Gradually the leaves turn red and die off
Southern Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis)2 to 4.5 mm long
Light brown
Red dust from the boring sites on the surface of the trunk
Spruce Beetle
(Dendroctonus rufipennis)
4-7mm long
Dark brown with reddish wings
Symptoms are resins leaking from the pitch tubes, then discoloration of the leaves within 18 months

Serious outbreaks of the mountain pine beetle in 1996 and later in 2004 decimated millions of acres of Conifer trees in the United States and Canada.

Top shot of Mountain Pine Beetle on a tree species showing its black shiny body.

(Image: Dom Sch-veg-man17)

If you have any of these infestations on any of the Coniferous trees in your garden,2 spraying with a homemade solution made of horticultural oil, dish soap, and water will quickly suffocate them or have them scurrying away into the long grass.

How To Stop Coniferous Trees Disease

Throughout its lifetime any tree can become susceptible to diseases if sufficiently weakened by exterior forces.

In the case of Coniferous trees, fungi are the main challenges to avoid, but bacteria and viruses have been known to assault Conifers seemingly from out of nowhere.5 They can cause the needles to discolor, complete branches to drop, the bark on the trunk to peel off, and the roots to rot.

Needle Cast, Needle Blight, Cankers, and Conifer Root and Butt Rot are just some of the offenders. If any of the signs or symptoms are noticed, try these treatments to remedy the situation

  • Apply suitable fungicides for the infection
  • Use a copper fungicidal spray for needle cast diseases
  • Prune away any affected areas and apply a wound treatment paint to prevent reinfection
  • In severe cases of root rot, complete tree removal is the only option, and then treating the soil with a fungicide to remove even the slightest trace of the fungus before planting another tree in the same location

Companion Plants for Growing Coniferous Trees (Types of Coniferous Trees: Conifers vs Deciduous vs Evergreens Coniferous Forest)

The inspiration for planting companion plants under and around Coniferous trees can be to add some flora decorations, attract insects and pollinators or improve the nutrients in the soil.

Combining a variety of shapes, colors, and even shades of green, can completely transform a landscape.

Some plants that fall under one or more of these requirements are

  • Day Lilies
  • Carnations
  • Hydrangea
  • Irises
  • Bunny Grass
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Pumpkins

One of the best companion plants for a Conifer tree, is another Conifer tree. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and will complement each other perfectly.

The Blue Pine Tree, Blue Arrow Juniper, and Blue Cypress Tree

Evergreen Coniferous trees are expected to be green.

Not all of them are so, several species have green needles with a hint of blue, while others have startlingly steel blue leaves that stand out from a mile away amongst their green-with-envy compatriots.

Apart from the Blue Pine Tree and Blue Arrow Juniper Tree, there are types of Cypress Trees, as well as Spruce, Fir, and Cedar with leaves that are bluish/green, silver/blue, and bright blue, that stand out even more.

Related Reading: Cypress Tree Guide: 14 Species, Facts, Bald (Surprising Symbolism)

Blue Pine

  • Scots Pine (Pinus Sylvestris)
  • Himalayan Blue Pine (Pinus wallichiana)
  • Single-Leaf Pinyon Pine Tree (Pinus monophylla)
  • Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora)


  • Blue Star Juniper (J. squamata ‘Blue Star’)3
  • Blue Chip, or Creeping Juniper (J. horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’)
  • Blue Pfitzer (J. chinensis ‘Blue Pfitzer’)
  • Blue Point (J. chinensis ‘Blue Point’)
  • Angelica Blue Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Angelica Blue’)


  • Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’)
  • Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’)
  • Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)


  • Blue Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens ‘Glauca’)
  • Arizona Cypress (Hesperocyparis arizonica)
  • Smooth Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica)
  • Blue Ice Cypress (Cupressus glabra ‘Blue Ice’)
  • Boulevard Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera)


  • Balsam Fir (Abies concolor)
  • Tyler Blue Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea ‘Tyler Blue’)
  • Blue Waterfall (Abies lasiocarpa)
  • Blue Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii glauca)


  • Baby Blue Eyes (P. pungens ‘Baby Blue Eyes’)
  • Fat Albert (P. pungens ‘Fat Albert’)
  • The Hoopsii (P. pungens ‘Hoopsii’)
  • Bush’s Lace (Picea engelmannii ‘Bush’s Lace’)
  • Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Super Blue’)

Identifying Conifers (Trees Names)

With the variety of Coniferous trees literally growing all over the planet, there should be no problem selecting one for your garden.

Closeup of a Coniferous Tree species showing clusters of cylindrical-shaped pine cones and yellow-green short needles.

(Image: _Alicja_18)

They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, some evergreen, and some deciduous, all impressive whether they’re shaped into a hedge, or looming skyward.

Choose whichever types of Coniferous trees: Conifers vs. Deciduous vs. Evergreens Coniferous forest are right for you and spruce up your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions About Coniferous Trees

How Many Pine Trees Per Acre?

If planting seedlings, it is possible to plant between 450 to 550 Pine Trees per acre.

How Much Sunlight Does Coniferous Trees Need Each Day?

A minimum of 6 hours a day for some species while others beg for more.

What Are the Watering Needs for Coniferous Trees Plants?

After the first few years when regular watering is necessary, Coniferous trees require no watering unless there are severe droughts.

What Are Some Planting Tips for Coniferous Trees? How Far Apart To Plant Coniferous Trees?

The distance will be dictated by the narrowness of the tree when it grows into its pyramidal shape, or if the intention is to grow the plant into a hedge. In either case, the distance needs to be 1-2 feet apart or up to 6 feet for hedges.

Are Pinyon Pine Tree Nuts Better?

The nuts bought in stores are generally from the Stone Pine and Pinyon Pine Tree. Their popularity comes from the fact that the Pinyon Pine nuts are larger and easier to harvest from the trees,4 and therefore more readily available, they also taste great.


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2Government of British Columbia. (2023). Spruce beetle Dendroctonus rufipennis. British Columbia. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/managing-our-forest-resources/forest-health/forest-pests/bark-beetles/spruce-beetle>

3N.C. Cooperative Extension. (2023). Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/juniperus-squamata-blue-star/>

4University of Nebraska–Lincoln. (2022). Pine, Pinyon (Colorado Pinyon). Nebraska Forest Service. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://nfs.unl.edu/woody-plants/pinyon-pine>

5Wollaeger, H. (2013, December 5). Preventing, diagnosing and managing diseases in conifers. MSU Extension. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/preventing_diagnosing_and_managing_diseases_in_conifers>

6Ohio Department of Natural Resources. (2023). Loblolly Pine. Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://ohiodnr.gov/discover-and-learn/plants-trees/needle-like-leaves/loblolly-pine-pinus-taeda>

7Ries, P., & Pokorny, K. (2016, October). Conifers naturally shed needles in summer and fall. OSU Extension Service. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://extension.oregonstate.edu/news/conifers-naturally-shed-needles-summer-fall>

8Weill, A. (2021, December 21). Oh Christmas Tree: The Science of Conifer Trees. USGS. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://www.usgs.gov/news/featured-story/oh-christmas-tree-science-conifer-trees>

9U.S. Department of Interior. (2021, January 22). Wildland Fire in Lodgepole Pine. National Park Service. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://www.nps.gov/articles/wildland-fire-lodgepole-pine.htm>

10Kids Do Ecology. (2004). Taiga. Kids Do Ecology. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/biomes/taiga.html>

11N.C. Cooperative Extension. (2023). Cedrus deodara. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/cedrus-deodara/>

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19Manchurian Fir Abies holophylla 04 Photo by Darekk2 / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) . Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/Manchurian_Fir_Abies_holophylla_04.jpg>