ID GUIDE: Conifer Cones. πŸŒ²

When out on your next nature walk take some time to appreciate our conifers; they are so easily overlooked and ignored but I love their beauty, their smell and most of all the variety of cones! 🌲🌲🌲

1) Scots Pine.

Scots pine is an evergreen conifer native to northern Europe. Mature trees grow to 35m and can live for up to 700 years. The bark is a scaly orange-brown, which develops plates and fissures with age. Twigs are green-brown and hairless.

Cones: 3-7.5cm long, the female cone matures from red to green and then woody grey-brown with a circular bump at the end of each scale.

2) Douglas fir.

Douglas fir is an evergreen conifer that can grow to 55m and live for more than 1,000 years. The bark of young trees is grey-green with highly scented blisters, and becomes purple-brown, thick and corky with horizontal fissures over time.

Cone: this pendulous cone has large scales ending in a three-pointed bract.

3) Sitka spruce.

Imposing, aged, useful. The Sitka spruce accounts for around half of commercial plantations, and though it’s not as valuable as our native trees, it shelters birds and small mammals.

Cone: pale-brown pendulous cones have thin, flexible scales. Young cones are green.

4) Norway spruce.

Norway spruce is a fast-growing evergreen conifer which can reach 40m and live for up to 1,000 years. They are tall and straight and of a triangular appearance, with a pointed crown. The young bark is a coppery grey-brown and appears smooth, but is rough with papery scales. Mature trees (over 80 years old) have dark purple-brown bark, with cracks and small plates. Twigs are orange-brown, grooved and hairless.

Cone: up to 20cm long this species has the largest cones which are red brown with diamond shaped scales.

5) Lodgepole pine.

The lodgepole pine – or Pinus contorta var. latifolia – is an inland variety of the American shore pine. Its straight stem was used by Native Americans for the central supporting pole of their lodges or wigwams.

The tree was introduced to Britain in 1855 and its remarkable tolerance to poor soil helped it quickly win favour as a timber crop in the north of Britain.

Cones: 3-7cm cones vary from cylindrical to egg-shaped with prickly scales.

6) Corsican pine.

This variety of black pine is fast growing and has a remarkably straight trunk which is lightly branched. Known in Latin as theΒ Pinus nigraΒ subspeciesΒ laricio, this type of pine tree is native only to the island of Corsica. The Corsican pine is only suitable for use as a timber crop in the south and eastern side of Britain where there is low summer rainfall and higher levels of sunshine.

Cones: 7-8cm long this species has grey-brown cones when mature. They are often lopsided and uneven in shape.

7) Western hemlock.

Broadly conical in habit with a narrow crown, mature trees can grow to 45m (taller in their native habitat), and have characteristic long, drooping branch tips. The bark is dark brown with rugged ridges.

Cones: 1.5-3cm, its tiny brown (green when young) oval cones have up to 25 soft flexible scales.

8) European larch.

Mature larch can grow to 30m and live for 250 years. It is fairly fast growing and cone-shaped when young, becoming broad with age. The bark is pinkish-brown in colour and thick, and develops wide vertical fissures with age. Twigs are amber or slightly pink, and hairless.

Cones: introduced from central Europe in the 17th century,arch has clusters of greeny-red cones with large scales that mature to a red-brown.

9) Noble fir.

Introduced into Britain in 1830, the noble fir – orΒ Abies proceraΒ – is a native of the forests of Washington and Oregon where it grows to a great height. Just like theΒ Douglas fir this species was introduced by David Douglas.

Regarded as a decorative species on account of its striking blue-grey foliage and steady growth, it is often used in Europe for making wreaths. In Denmark it’s often the preferred species for Christmas trees.

Cones: up to 22cm long the pineapple-like green-brown cones of this North American native sit upright rather than dangling and disintegrate before falling.

Aren’t they beautiful?!

Which one is your favourite?

Feel free to use this guide to spot some conifers on your next walk.


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