Introduction to Conifers

The conifers are shrubs and trees with branches that arise conically and fruits also have a structure of cone. These plants belong to the group of gymnosperms, which includes those species whose carpels, as they do not have a closed space to house the ovules, show the seeds in the open.

Plants called gymnosperms are seed producers and fall into the category of vascular (organisms that are made up of plant cells) and spermatophytes (the group of all vascular lineages that produce seeds). The etymology of its name leads us to the Greek expression “naked seed”, which refers to the fact that they do not develop in a closed ovary, something that does occur in angiosperm plants.

There are about six hundred species of conifers worldwide. These trees often make up a coniferous forest, where specimens with evergreen and needle-like leaves predominate.

According to, the boreal forests, also called taiga, are the most common conifer forests. They are found in the northern hemisphere, in countries such as Russia and Canada, and have conifers such as pines, spruces, and firs. In places with higher temperatures, coniferous forests often feature species such as redwoods, cedars, and cypress trees.

When conifers are found in very cold regions, the usual thing is that they grow a lot in height and in the shape of a pyramid, since these peculiarities allow them to get rid of the snow more easily. In dry climates, on the other hand, the most frequent conifers are those with needle-like leaves that help reduce evaporation.

The pines are among the best known conifers. Various cultures attribute to these trees a symbolism linked to strength and vitality. This is because they are perennial species, with the ability to grow and subsist in arid environments.

The tallest conifers, on the other hand, are the redwoods, which can exceed a hundred meters in height regardless of roots. Another peculiarity of redwoods is their longevity: there are specimens that live for about 3,000 years.

Among the conifers we find the genus Juniperus, widely distributed worldwide. The more than fifty species that it comprises can be divided into two sections: junipers (which maintain their spiny juvenile foliage throughout their lives) and junipers (which lose their spiny juvenile foliage after the first few years). Junipers can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and in much of the Central American mountains.

As with all families and species of plants, conifers are associated with dozens of animal species that need them to survive and that also provide them with different benefits. An insect of the order of Lepidoptera (in everyday speech, they are known simply as butterflies) is known by the name of pine processionary caterpillar, which in the pine forests of South America and Southern Europe is very abundant and is considered a plague of relative danger.

The pine processionary caterpillar also lives in firs and cedars, and has a very particular appearance: it is covered with hairs that detach and remain floating in the air. Since they are stinging hairs, if they come into contact with the throat, nostrils or ears of humans, it can cause mild irritation to severe allergic reactions. In the case of dogs, their contact with this species can be fatal.

The hairs of the pine processionary have a substance called Thaumatopina (the scientific name of the species itself is Thaumatopoea pityocampa), a heat labile toxin that provides them with the ability to produce hives.

Introduction to Conifers