Deciduous woody plants lose their leaves every autumn but some trees, like evergreens, keep their leaves. Evergreen leaves are often different from deciduous plants and pine trees are a very well know group of evergreens. Check out Part I to learn about leaf parts and arrangements and Part II to learn about leaf shapes and margins.
Not every evergreen is a conifer (pine family) and not every conifer is an evergreen. However, most conifers are evergreen and have very different leaves compared to deciduous plants. We are going to talk about the leaves found specifically within the conifer family.
Conifers leaves are called needles and can either be rounded, flat or angled.
While all of the leaves are needles there are some that look more so like actual needles like white pine needles.
Scale-like leaves are usually either needle-like or flat that overlap each other much like reptile skin.
These types of needles taper to a point and then curve up like a cupped hand. Junipers have awl-like needles.
How needles are grouped together are important in identifying conifers. Some groupings are unique to one specific tree.
Some needles are not grouped together at all but are individual needles growing from the twig.
Grouped needles are called fascicles and contain two or more needles in a bunch. The needles below are in a fascicle group of two and some have more, such as white pines who have 5 per fascicle.
Conifer leaves are rather simplistic compared to the variety of deciduous leaves. Leaves are a great way to identify plants but some plants are very similar or don’t have their leaves year around. Knowing how to identify plants by their buds and fruit is also useful in properly identifying plants. The next section of How to Identify Plants will cover buds and fruits. Soon you’ll know how to identify plants and understand guidebooks!