Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- Evergreen trees retain their foliage throughout the year and have more than one growing season.
- Conifers, temperate broadleaved species, tropical hardwoods, and some uncategorized species are the main categories of evergreen trees.
- Conifers are the most commonly thought of evergreen trees and include pines, hemlocks, cypresses, firs, spruces, redwoods, and yews.
- Many evergreen trees are popular for their timber, such as pine, cedar, spruce, and fir trees.
- Environmental factors such as wildfires, pests, and climate change can significantly impact evergreen forests.
Evergreen trees are a botanically recognized category of tree. They stand out, especially in the winter, since the plant’s foliage remains green and functioning all year round. In other words, they have more than one growing season.
Most people imagine evergreen trees only include pine trees and other conifers. However, there is actually a wide range of evergreen trees that grow worldwide. We will pull out many of these typologies and focus on some species to give you examples of all the types of evergreen trees.
What is an ‘Evergreen’ Tree?
Evergreen trees are true to their name; they always stay green. They often have needle-like structures, although this isn’t always true, as you will see in the latter three categories listed below. The needle structures can range from hard to soft, and the trees can grow cones to disperse their seeds or form berry-like structures to house them.
You can’t typecast evergreen as a category since it ranges in type, form, and growing pattern.
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The 35 Types of Evergreen Trees Species Listed (With Facts and Photos)
There are several more significant categories of evergreen trees. These include:
- Temperate broadleaved species
- Tropical hardwoods
Some uncategorized species don’t belong to a larger group. There are a wider variety of subcategories within the larger categories listed above. Then, we have pulled out common species within each of these subcategories.
Conifers are the standard trees that come to most people’s minds when thinking of an evergreen tree. They include many of the trees that populate evergreen and mixed forests worldwide. There are also culturally important trees that belong to this group, such as Christmas trees.
The primary subcategories that belong to this group of trees include:
There are more than 630 species of trees classed as conifers. However, only a handful of these trees are popular enough to be typically cultivated. They range in their size and growth pattern, with some of them having shrubby, ground-hugging forms and others growing as tall as 150 feet high. The species below are some of the more common species of conifers.
Pine is one of the primary subcategories of conifer. Pine trees have clusters of long leaves that grow in a needle shape. Most pine trees are a variety of soft timber that makes valuable timber for furniture. In addition, their pulp is often used for tar and turpentine.
1. Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Eastern White Pine is a large pine native to eastern North America. The Native Americans that made their home in this tree’s native region are called the ‘Tree of Peace.’ Within the United Kingdom, the common name is called the Weymouth pine. Some trees can live for more than 400 years, although most trees are between 200 and 250 years old.
2. Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)
Ponderosa pine goes by many other common names: bull pine, blackjack pine, Filipinas pine, and western yellow pine. It has an erect growing habit in temperate regions throughout Europe and New Zealand. However, it now grows in most of the western United States after being successfully introduced back in the 1800s.
3. Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana)
Sugar Pine is one of the largest pine trees in the conifer group. These trees are common to coastal and inland mountain areas along the Pacific coast. These trees can typically grow up to 195 feet tall (60 meters). Some of the tallest species grow in Yosemite National Park, with the tallest being 269 feet tall (82 meters).
4. Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)
Red Pine is also commonly called Norway Pine. It grows natively in North America. It has also become the state tree of Minnesota. They are likely called Norway Pine because Scandinavian immigrants thought the pine trees looked similar to the Scots pines that grew back home.
Hemlocks are another type of evergreen tree that fall under the coniferous category. Hemlocks are highly poisonous plants. They have dark green foliage that has a distinct smell when crushed. Even still, they are often grown in Europe as an ornamental species.
1. Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
The Eastern Hemlock is a tree native to eastern North America and is also the state tree of Pennsylvania. They grow throughout the vast majority of the Great Lakes region and the Appalachian Mountains.
They have also been introduced throughout the United Kingdom and in mainland Europe. Their natural populations in North America have become threatened due to the Hemlock woolly adelgid, which has placed the species on the Near Threatened list.
2. Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana)
This species of hemlock is native to the west coast of North America. Its latin name refers to Karl Mertens, a German botanist who traveled to America as part of a Russian expedition. It has a very similar range to the western hemlock. They grow slowly, generally found in cold, subalpine planes. They can live for more than 800 years. Native Americans also used these trees to create bed frames and brushes for cleaning.
3. Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)
Western Hemlock is quite a large tree that grows between 100 to 164 feet (30 to 50 meters). It tends to be prolific along the northwest coast of the United States and the entire western coast of Canada.
You can quickly tell it apart from other hemlocks by its pendulous branchlet tips, no matter the tree’s age. In addition, the bark is thin and furrowed, and the tree has a thin, pendular cone.
Cypress species make their home in many different regions of the world. Some of these evergreen species prefer temperate regions, while others live in swamps and next to deserts. Some of these species are slow-growing but also extremely long-lived. One of these species, the bald cypress, can reach up to 600 years old.
1. Mediterranean Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
The Mediterranean cypress can also be called the Pencil Pine, Italian Cypress, or Tuscan Cypress. It grows in eastern Mediterranean regions to about 115 feet (35 meters) tall. It grows with a conic crown and loosely hanging branchlets. These trees can grow to be more than 1,000 years old. However, keep in mind that it is somewhat susceptible to cypress canker.
2. Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Baldcypress trees are among the standard trees you find in southern swamps in the United States. When growing in its native habitat, it will raise its conical ‘knees’ the rise from the roots. Some botanists believe this plant behavior helps the roots get oxygen since they dwell in watery swamps. They are grown in commercial enterprises as shade trees around 70 feet (21 meters) tall.
3. Nootka Cypress (Callitropsis nootkatensis)
The Nootka Cypress is a weeping variety of trees. It is pyramidal with dark gray-green foliage that drapes from the drooping branchlets. It makes an excellent specimen plant that requires low maintenance. However, it can be susceptible to honey fungus and root diseases. It is native to the northwestern coast of North America.
4. Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)
This evergreen grows in a particular portion of California. Its small natural range has moved its conservation status to ‘vulnerable.’ It is only a medium-sized tree with a much less regular growth pattern than other cypress trees. It often grows quite irregular with a flat top due to strong winds.
Fir trees are popular conifer trees. They are a trendy choice for live Christmas trees. Most of the time, Christmas trees are either Noble Fir, Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir, or Nordmann Fir. They stand out because of their needle-like leaves that grow straight out from the tree’s branches.
1. White Fir (Abies procera)
The White Fir is often called Red Fir or Noble Fir. These trees have distinct layers or tiers with open spaces. Because of this growth pattern, they make for excellent Christmas trees. They also have beautiful, silvery-gray bark with blue-gray leaves.
The cones often grow to about five or ten inches long. They grow natively on the northwest coast of the United States. They often grow to about 50 feet (15 meters) tall but can reach 300 feet (91 meters) tall.
2. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
The Douglas Fir is an evergreen conifer species from the pine family. It grows native to the western coast of North America. There are three primary varieties of this fir tree. These include the coast Douglas Fir, Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir, and the Mexican Douglas Fir.
Even though its common name is ‘fir,’ it is not a true fir species. Instead, it is known as a ‘false hemlock.’ They often grow as medium-sized trees but can be extremely large in the right growing conditions.
3. Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri)
The Fraser Fir is a species of fir native to the Appalachian Mountains. They are sometimes treated as subspecies to the Balsam Fir. They are an endangered species of tree with a limited range within the mountains.
The resin from these trees can be ‘milked’ from bark blisters on the balsam. It is often a pretty small tree that only grows to about 30 to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters) tall.
4. Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)
The Balsam Fir is native to most eastern and central Canada, along with the northeastern United States and the southern Appalachian Mountains. Native Americans used these trees for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. For example, they used the needles in types of tea to stave off infections and strengthen the immune system. These trees tend to grow in cool climates when moisture can gather at their roots.
5. Grand Fir (Abies grandis)
The Grand Fir also has the other common names of Lowland White Fir, Great Silver Fir, Oregon Fir, and several others. It is a tall forest tree native to the entire Pacific Northwest. It prefers to grow around a sea level of about 5,600 feet (1,700 meters). In fact, in this area, it makes up a large portion of an ecoregion along with the Douglas Fir within the Cascade mountain range.
When they reach maturity, the trees can typically grow between 130 to 230 feet (40 to 70 meters). Notably, there are two varieties, one of which is taller and prefers the coastline, and the other is shorter and an interior forest tree.
There are about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees that fall under the banner of spruce. They grow in the northern temperate and boreal regions of the Earth. These species tend to be hardy trees that add year-round color, from deep green and blue-green needles. We have pulled out three of the common spruce trees.
1. Norway Spruce (Picea abies)
The Norway Spruce is a large, pyramidal tree. They grow long cones in a cylindrical shape that dangle almost like ornaments from their branches. The branches grow in a weeping pattern with dark green foliage. They are often used in residential parks as windbreaks or screens. The tree is native to the Balkan mountains, the European Alps, and the Carpathians.
2. Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)
The Colorado Blue Spruce has become a very popular cultivar in North America because of its blue-grey foliage. It is native to North America and able to grow in growing zones from 1 through 7.
Even though its native range at certain altitudes in the Rocky Mountains is somewhat limited, it is a popular enough native species that is still a Least Concern species. Its Latin name helps identify it. Pungens means “sharply pointed” leaves, unlike most other spruce.
3. Black Spruce (Picea mariana)
The Black Spruce is native to North America. It is found throughout most of Canada and only in the northern regions of the United tates. Its specific epithet ‘mariana’ translates to ‘of the Virgin Mary.’ It is easily identified by its bright purple or black cones when still relatively young. Its needles usually are light blue-green.
Redwood trees are famous because of a single species known to include some of the largest trees in the world, the Coast Redwood. Because of how much they stand out, they are often considered a signature species within a forest and make up an entire forest typology. Redwood forests often include many other evergreens, including Douglas Firs, Hemlocks, Tan Oaks, etc.
Interestingly, not all coniferous redwoods are evergreen. For example, the endangered species Dawn Redwood is a deciduous conifer and the only living species left in the Metasequoia genus.
1. Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Giant Sequoia is some of the largest trees in the world. They have distinctive orange bark streaked with darker red tones. Often, their first branches don’t extend from the trunk underneath the tallest of these trees until multiple stories up.
They are relatively fast-growing for such a large species of tree, so they can reach such great heights without having to reach millennia to do so. As a result, some specimens are ancient, although they aren’t the oldest trees in the world. These trees have been known to reach 3,400 years old.
2. Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
The Coast Redwood is another of the tallest living trees on the planet. This evergreen species can reach up to 379 feet high (115.5 meters). Unfortunately, their numbers have been damaged by commercial logging endeavors in the 1800s along most of coastal California, placing them on the endangered species list. Now, these trees have much more protection to ensure the longevity of some of their more vital populations.
Yew trees stand out from the crowd of evergreens more for their cultural associations than their growing pattern or coloration. They are one of the longest-lived species that natively grow in Europe. But, due to its fast-acting toxins, it symbolizes death across many ancient European cultures.
Yew is a prolific plant across almost all of Europe, northern Africa, and into the Middleeast and Asia. It is different from other evergreens because its needles are flat and soft instead of pointed. Unfortunately, it also grows bright red, poisonous berry-like structures. Although they are dangerous if consumed, they help make the plant more aesthetically desirable.
1. Common Yew / European Yew (Taxus baccata)
As you might have guessed from the name, this species of yew is the most common one you will find throughout its primary growing zones. Almost every part of this plant is poisonous. The toxins are so intense that they can be absorbed through inhalation and even through the skin if released in just the wrong way. These are medium-sized trees, often growing to 35 to 65 feet (10 to 20 meters) at mature height.
Unlike many evergreens, these have modified seed cones that only contain a single seed. These are surrounded by a fleshy scale, which many mistakenly refer to as a berry.
2. Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia)
The Pacific or Western Yew is a species endemic to the Pacific Northwest. It prefers areas of high moisture. It has a shrubby growth pattern but is still identified as an evergreen tree. Their conservation status classes them as Near Threatened because of their relatively limited range and specific growing needs.
3. Canadian Yew (Taxus canadensis)
The Canadian Yew generally grows as a sprawling shrub that rarely grows taller than 8 feet (2.5 meters). It thrives in swampy woods and along riverbanks and lakes in eastern North America. These shrubby evergreens are also considered a rare relic from before the Ice Age.
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Even though they are not typically thought of as evergreen since they don’t grow in a seasonal climate. However, not all-year-round tropical species are evergreen. Only those that continue to grow all year are those that fit the evergreen category. These species are not related like many of the conifer species.
1. Tamarind (tamarindus Indica)
Tamarind trees are interesting evergreen trees. They are not coniferous trees but are instead leguminous. They even bear an edible fruit that is quite popular in their native habitat of tropical Africa. Due to globalization, the juicy pulp from the tamarind fruit has become quite popular in global cuisines. It also stands out because it is monotypic to its genus, Tamarindus.
2. Mahogany (Swietenia mahagnoni)
Mahogany trees are grown as evergreen shade trees. They are prized for their straight-grained, red timber. Although this tree has received protection in some parts of the world, it is still overly logged, which challenges the tree’s native populations in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America.
3. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus)
The eucalyptus stands out even more from this group of oddball trees. The reason for this is that these aren’t technically rainforest trees. Instead, these shrubs can grow in warm, temperate regions, primarily across Australia, as native species. There are more than seven hundred species of these plants. Most of them have smooth, fibrous leaves and silvery bark.
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Temperate Broadleaved Species
Temperate broadleaves species are those evergreens that grow in families often largely made up of deciduous trees. These are often culturally significant since they are the only plants left with green on them all year round in the cold, otherwise stark climates.
Rhododendron is quite a large genus, including more than 1,000 species of woody plants within the heath family. Species from the genus grow in almost any climate and biome worldwide. Their popularity is partly because of their evergreen nature providing winter aesthetics, and their bright pink, purple, or red flowers in the spring and summer.
2. Oak (Quercus)
There are only a couple of oaks considered evergreen instead of deciduous. These include the Holly oak or Quercus ilex. It grows natively in the Meditteranean region. Another evergreen oak is the Emory Oak (Quercus emoryi). They belong to the red oak group and have smaller, glossy leaves relative to other oak species.
3. Holly (Ilex)
Holly is one of those culturally important evergreen species. European holly stays green all year round even though it grows in a region with cold winters. These plants became popular as a Christmas decoration back in the Roman period.
Roman soldiers based in northern Europe wanted to be able to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their green branches, traditionally from plants in the olive family. However, holly was the only plant still green in their area, so it was used as a substitute until it created its own tradition.
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There are a variety of species that don’t belong to one specific group. All these species are outliers and therefore form their group. Cycads and palms are the two main categories in this group.
1. Cycads (Cycadophyta)
Cycads are an interesting example in this group. These plants grow in the tropics and as far north as Florida. These species are considered dinosaurs of the plant world. The fossil record shows they haven’t changed much over the last 100 million years.
They are a unique plant as they don’t use flowers to pollinate themselves. Instead, they grow and expose their seeds where they get pollinated directly, typically by insects. One of the few commercially cultivated cycads is the Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta).
2. Palms (Arecaceae)
Palms are also evergreen trees. Instead, they have no technical branches but a series of long feather-shaped leaves that crown on the top. Palms mostly grow in warm regions, although they can grow in colder ones in protected areas. There are about 2,600 species worldwide, but we have pulled out three common species to typify this group.
Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
The Date Palm is one of the earliest cultivated palms in the world. They were thought to be cultivated in the Mesopotamian era around 6,000 years ago. Likely this was because the dates were an integral part of the diet of the people that lived in that area.
These trees are another dinosaur-like tree as there have been date palms in the fossil records aged around 56 million years.
King Palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae)
King palms are commonly grown in Southern California. They are well-known for their beautiful, multi-hued trunks with lush fronds. The trunks are smooth with a leaf base that appears to be roped around one another. They also have eye-catching blooms that they flaunt during the spring season. They are often grown as shade trees.
Foxtail Palm (Wodyetia bifurcata)
The Foxtail Palm is native to Queensland, Australia. They are a fast-growing palm. They are also the only species within their genus. It is a very attractive palm with plumose leaves that resemble the shape of a ‘Foxtail.’ It also grows sizeable orange fruit that the aboriginal man native to the country would grow and use.
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Environmental Impacts on Evergreen Forests
Three significant environmental aspects impact evergreen forests. These include wildfires, a variety of voracious pests, and climate change.
Wildfires are an interesting environmental impact to study regarding their impact on evergreen forests. Wildfires can be manmade, either on purpose or by accident. However, they can also be natural occurrences. In fact, as botanists have continued to research the life cycles of forests, they have found that wildfires are necessary to perpetuate new growth cycles of deciduous and evergreen species.
While some wildfires rage and destroy precious populations, others are harbingers of life. For example, only the heat from a fire is hot enough to open up the cones and release the seeds.
Pests have become a big problem for many species of conifers due to globalization. When the trees and pests have aged together over the centuries, the trees will have built up defenses against them. However, species of pests like pine bark beetle move because of climate change or are accidentally transported from Europe or Asia to North American shores.
This tiny, highly destructive pest has killed hundreds of thousands of trees, causing some of the worst wildfires in California on record. Unfortunately, they have been able to move north because of our following environmental impact.
Climate change has had detrimental effects on all the forests and ecosystems around the world, impacting them in ways we could never have imagined. Some of them are pretty direct, changing the climate of an area until a species can no longer grow there. Others are less direct but just as deadly, such as with the changing range of the pine bark beetle.
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Interesting Facts about Evergreen Trees
1. Cones give clues to the weather and humidity.
Cones have evolved to carefully guard their baby seedlings, only releasing them during optimal periods for growth and success. To this end, they will open during dry weather, and the wind will disperse them. Once the humidity increases, such as before a storm, the cones close again to protect the seeds from getting wet before they are ready.
2. Sap has historically been quite helpful.
Pine tree sap is not only beneficial for the tree, functioning to carry nutrients from one point to another. It has also been utilized by people from many cultures globally to create things like turpentine for fires, candles, and even glue.
3. Many evergreen woods make excellent building materials.
Many evergreens are softwoods, things pine, cedar, spruce, and firs. They are valuable for making things like furniture and are often used in certain building materials as well.
4. Evergreen trees are very popular Christmas trees.
In 2020, more than 26 million evergreen trees were sold in the United States exclusively over the holiday season. As a result, the market for live Christmas trees is booming, with more than $2 billion going into evergreen production and sales each year. The most popular Christmas tree species are the Balsam Fir, the Douglas Fir, and the Fraser Fir.
5. The typical smell of a coniferous evergreen comes from terpenes.
Terpene is a compound made of hydrogen and carbon atoms. This chemical hits our olfactory senses strongly, giving citrus fruits that distinctive odor and evergreen trees their tangy, woodsy smell. Likewise, monoterpenes create a scent unique to pine trees and other conifers, typically called Pinene.