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Conifers

Conifers belong to the group of trees classified as gymnosperms, which are cone-bearing seed plants. Most conifers are trees but there are also a small number of shrubs. Conifers include cedars, cypresses, firs, junipers, kauri, larches, pines, hemlocks, redwoods, spruces, and yews. While many conifers are evergreen, a few are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in winter.

Conifers dominate large areas of land on Earth, particularly the forests of the northern hemisphere. First appearing around 300 million years ago, conifers evolved biological features such as wind-based pollination and the unique ability of their needles to retain moisture and reduce water loss. Many conifers are able to survive harsh winter conditions because their conical shape and downward-sloping limbs help shed snow. Conifers also can adjust their internal chemistry to resist freezing, a process called “hardening.” The world’s conifer forests constitute the world’s largest collective carbon sink and therefore help to make our planet a better place to live. Conifers also hold tremendous economic value, primarily for timber and paper production. The wood of conifers is known as softwood.

The table below contains links to Conifers included in the 4th Edition of “Big Trees of Delaware”

 

Conifer Tree Species
Atlantic white-cedar
Baldcypress
Dawn-redwood
Eastern hemlock
Eastern redcedar
Eastern white pine
Loblolly pine
Pitch pine
Shortleaf pine
Virginia pine

Atlantic white-cedar

Atlantic white-cedar Chamaecyparis thyoides Though not a true cedar (really a cypress), this conifer is often found adjacent to streams and in wet, boggy areas, particularly in southern Delaware. Its wood is light, soft, fragrant, durable, and is often used for boats, shingles, and decoys. This columnar-shaped tree has bluish-green leaves. Seldom seen in most …

Baldcypress

Baldcypress Taxodium distichum As Delaware’s only truly native deciduous conifer, baldcypress is often found in swamps and ponds in southern Delaware. Its broadly-flared trunks and root-like knees help to identify this stately tree, which is well-suited for parks and large estates, especially in wet areas. Its wood is light and durable and used for shingles …

Dawn-redwood

Dawn-redwood Metasequoia glyptostroboides Once thought extinct, dawn-redwood is native to Asia and is considered one of three conifers classified as redwoods (the others are the giant sequoia and coast redwood trees in the western United States). Capable of heights over 100 feet, dawn-redwood has a conical crown and a large straight trunk. Well-suited for long …

Eastern hemlock

Eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis Native to northern New Castle County, hemlock is a slow-growing conifer that is a favorite ornamental for landscapers because it makes a great evergreen hedge. It is often found on moist sites due to its preference for shade, however hemlock also adapts well to other soil types and to pruning. However, …

Eastern redcedar

  Eastern redcedar Juniperis virginiana Eastern redcedar is Delaware’s only native juniper, however, it is not a true cedar. Its red and white wood is known for being lightweight, aromatic, and durable, and it is often used to line closets and chests. Although it grows slowly, redcedar is still a very desirable landscape planting useful …

Eastern white pine

Eastern white pine  Pinus strobus Most of Delaware’s native pines are in its south, but white pines are planted throughout the First State. Eastern white pine is a long-lived soft pine that is capable of reaching heights above 200 feet and diameters of four feet. Its wood is light, straight-grained, easy to work, but not …

Loblolly pine

  Loblolly pine Pinus taeda Loblolly pine is considered the principal commercial species in Delaware and it is predominantly found in the southern part of the state. Adaptable to a variety of sites, it seeds into open areas readily. Loblolly seeds are sometimes eaten by wild turkeys, squirrels, and some songbirds. On good sites the …

Pitch pine

Pitch pine  Pinus rigida Pitch pine usually grows 50 to 60 feet tall with trunk diameters of two to three feet. Its branches are often contorted, which can give it a ragged but picturesque crown. The tree’s coarse-grained wood is very durable and can thus be used for lumber, but it is more likely to …

Shortleaf pine

Shortleaf pine  Pinus echinata   Shortleaf pine is a hard pine that can grow to heights of 80 to 100 feet on favorable sites, with diameters of two to three feet. Its slender branches can often form a pyramid-shaped crown. Like other southern yellow pines, the wood of shortleaf pine is moderately heavy, hard, and …

Virginia Pine

Virginia pine Pinus virginiana   Virginia pine is commonly a small or medium-sized tree that is useful for reforesting abandoned and cutover lands and is also a source of pulpwood and lumber. However, there are a few record trees that have measured over 100 feet in height. Virginia pine tends to do best in moderately …