conifer


conifer

Any member of the order Pinales, woody plants that bear their seeds and pollen on separate, cone-shaped structures. They constitute the largest division of gymnosperms, with more than 550 species. Most are evergreen, upright trees and shrubs. They grow throughout the world (except in Antarctica) and prefer temperate climate zones. Conifers include the pines (Pinus), junipers (Juniperus), spruces (Picea), hemlocks (Tsuga), firs (Abies), larches (Larix), yews (Taxus), cypresses (Cupressus), bald cypresses (Taxodium), Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga), arborvitaes (Thuja), and related groups. They include the world's smallest and tallest trees. Conifers supply softwood timber used for general construction, mine timbers, fence posts, poles, boxes and crates, and other articles, as well as pulpwood for paper. The wood is also used as fuel and in the manufacture of cellulose products, plywood, and veneers. The trees are the source of resins, volatile oils, turpentine, tars, and pharmaceuticals. Conifer leaves vary in shape but generally have a reduced surface area to minimize water loss. Especially in the pines, firs, and spruces, the leaves are long and stiff and are commonly referred to as needles. Cypresses, cedars, and others have smaller, scalelike leaves. Conifers were the dominant type of vegetation just before the advent of angiosperms (see flowering plant).

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on conifer, visit Britannica.com.

Seen & Heard

What made you look up conifer? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.