Genera:Pinus (pine), Picea (spruce), Abies (fir)
Family Name:Pinaceae – pine family
General Description:Pines, spruces and firs are members of the Pinaceae family and share basic morphological and reproductive characteristics. Pines, spruces and firs are pyramidal trees (at least when young) with branches growing in a whorled pattern. They are monoecious, cone-bearing plants. To the casual observer they look very much the same and are frequently lumped together and called a “pine” or often “a Christmas tree”. However, if one follows a few basic steps it is easy to identify a pine from a spruce from a fir.
Steps to take to determine pine, spruce or fir:
- How many needles and how are they attached? This should be the first decision you make as it tells you what genus it could or absolutely could not be.
- Cone features
- Are the cones pendulous or upright?
- How do the cones mature? Does it take two years for the cones to mature? Do they stay intact at maturity or do they disintegrate upon maturity?
- Bud features – Are there terminal and lateral buds? Only terminal buds? What do they look like?
- Whole plant/Habit – Is it pyramidal when young, but broadens with age (loses apical dominance)? Is the tree pyramidal throughout its lifespan? Notice size, shape, form and color as you approach the tree as these features will all help to confirm the identification of the plant.
Resources Consulted:Dirr, Michael A. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses. Champaign: Stipes, 2009. Print.
Creator:Julia Fitzpatrick-Cooper, Professor, College of DuPage
Keywords/Tags:Pinaceae, tree, conifer, cone, needle, evergreen, Pinus, pine, Picea, spruce, Abies, fir