Last Updated on April 14, 2023
If you have spent much time with people who do tree pruning for a living, you have probably heard them talk about coniferous and deciduous trees. You may know that the leaves of deciduous trees turn colours in fall, while conifers stay green all year. However, there is more behind these terms than just leaf colour. If you wonder how they might apply to trees in your yard, then enjoy the following answers to some common questions customers ask us about deciduous vs. coniferous trees.
Is Knowing the Difference Between Coniferous and Deciduous Trees Important for Tree Pruning?
The primary reason to learn the difference between coniferous and deciduous trees is so that you can take care of them correctly. Pruning techniques are especially different depending on the type of tree. For example, if you treat a conifer like one of your deciduous shrubs by cutting it back to its base each year, you will learn the hard way that most conifers will not resprout.
Conifers do not need annual trimming the way fruit trees do. Pruning a conifer requires skill and, above all, a specific reason to do so. The following are the main reasons to prune one:
- Shape – A pyramid is the ideal shape for most conifers.
- Size – Sometimes a tree grows faster than expected for its location.
- Cosmetics – Careful trimming can be a makeover for overgrown or scraggly shrubs.
- Health – Pruning removes damaged or diseased limbs.
What Is the Difference Between Coniferous and Deciduous Trees?
The word deciduous simply means falling off. When used to describe a tree, it refers to species that conserve energy by dropping their leaves when the growing season is over. With a few exceptions, conifers keep leaves on their branches year-round. However, there are other ways to distinguish between the two.
Making flowers is a special ability that only deciduous trees possess. Of course not every individual deciduous tree is healthy or mature enough to bloom, so not seeing a blossom on a tree does not automatically mean it is a conifer. But knowing that only deciduous tree species can make flowers is a good way to remember which is which.
Fruits and Cones
Flowers eventually turn into fruits, which are a deciduous tree’s way of spreading seeds. Conifers, on the other hand, entrust their next generation to the inside of a woody cone that falls on the forest floor. The cone of the Coulter pine can grow 40 cm long and weigh up to 5 kg. Canadian hemlocks, on the other hand, produce large quantities of tiny cones about 2 cm in length. If a tree has a cone, it is always a conifer.
Leaves and Needles
People also refer to deciduous trees as broadleaf trees because their leaves have wide surfaces for collecting sunlight. Coniferous trees, on the other hand, have long thin needles for leaves. These are sharp to the touch on spruces, while pines have softer needles that grow in bundles. Other conifers such as junipers and arborvitae have flat and scaly needles, but it is still easy to tell them apart from deciduous tree leaves.
Type of Wood
Another name for deciduous trees is hardwoods because they make the strongest and most durable lumber for woodworking. The trees take longer to grow and therefore have denser and sturdier trunks. The following deciduous trees are especially prized for their wood:
The term softwood, in contrast, refers to coniferous trees. Foresters sow coniferous trees such as pines and then harvest them from plantations in as little as 20 years. These fast-growing trees make a softer type of lumber that industries use for paper products. When using conifers for construction, people usually treat the wood with chemicals to make it more durable.
What Is a Deciduous Coniferous Tree?
This question may sound like a contradiction in terms, but there are actually a few conifers that drop all their leaves each winter. The most familiar example in Canada is the larch. Others are the dawn redwood of China and the southern U.S.’s bald cypress. These species are exceptions, and the majority of conifers do not look bare in winter.
If you watch your conifers closely, however, you will notice that many of their needles turn yellow and fall off throughout summer and fall. In the same way that dogs shed their hair but never look bald, evergreens maintain their green appearance by losing leaves over a longer period of time instead of dropping them all at once. This is why another name for a conifer is an evergreen tree.
Are There More Coniferous or Deciduous Trees in Canada?
Trees cover 3.6 million square kilometres of Canada. Of these, coniferous trees are the most abundant, making up two-thirds of the boreal forest. However, there are over 100 species of deciduous trees in Canada, but only 34 species of conifer. So conifers are more plentiful, but deciduous trees are more diverse. Both can do well in Canadian yards, depending on the soil type, moisture, and amount of sunlight available.
What Are 4 Examples of Coniferous and Deciduous Trees?
If you are still not sure which trees are coniferous and which are deciduous, here are some examples of deciduous trees you have probably seen in the Kitchener area:
- Oak (Quercus) – Black, white, scarlet, and chestnut.
- Maple (Acer) – Red, black, silver, and bigleaf.
- Birch (Betula) – Paper, white, water, and mountain.
- Dogwood (Cornus) – Eastern flowering and alternate-leafed.
There are nine main types of conifers native to Canada. Here are four of the most common ones:
- Pine (Pinus) – White, red, and pitch.
- Spruce (Picea) – Red, black, and white.
- Fir (Abies) – Balsam and Balm-of-Gilead.
- Juniper (Juniperus) – Common juniper and red cedar.
The other native types of conifers are cypress, larch, yew, cedar, and hemlock. Canada is also home to many introduced species from around the world that thrive in our northern climate.
Why Should I Choose Martin’s Tree Service for Tree Pruning?
Learning to tell the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees is the first step in caring for your yard. When conifers start looking yellow, though, it can be difficult to tell if they are naturally dropping needles or if they might have a disease. This is the time when people start searching the internet for tree-cutting and removal services near me.
If you’re concerned about the health and safety of a coniferous or deciduous tree in your yard, you can discuss it with our friendly staff at Martin’s Tree Service. We’ll send a qualified technician to inspect your trees and determine the best way to maintain them while keeping your property safe. If needed, our professional team will trim or remove limbs and dead trees to prevent a dangerous situation from occurring. Contact us today to request a quote for all your tree care needs.