Conifers, conifers

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For more than 270 million years, coniferous trees have been part of the vegetation on our planet and dominated the landscape on Earth for many millions of years. After the great ice ages, they took up position again as pioneer trees and, together with birch, oak and hazel, laid the foundation for our today's mixed forests. The main groups of conifers include the plant families of the Araucariae (Araucariaceae), Cephalopods (Cephalotaxaceae), Cypresses (Cupressaceae), Pines (Pinaceae), Pods (Podocarpaceae), Umbrella Firs (Sciadopityaceae) and Yews (Taxaceae). Most of the coniferous species are found mainly in the northern hemisphere to high altitudes, in the tropical south are mainly representatives of the Araucaria (Araucariaceae) and stone discs (Podocarpaceae).
Coniferous trees or conifers make up the largest group of plants of the so-called Nacktsamer. In this group, the seeds with which the plant propagates are not trapped in an ovary, as in Bedecktsamern, but are open. The carpels are also slightly open. Common to all conifers is that the spore plants are located inside cones. Hence the Latin name conifers (conus = cone, ferre = carry).

What are conifers?

Coniferous trees are woody plants that can reach sizes up to one hundred meters. They form a high main trunk, from which a large number of lateral branches depart. Unlike deciduous trees, conifers usually have a conical crown. Their branches are bent longer in the lower stem area than at the top and at the end, giving the characteristic appearance. The leaves of the conifers are long and thin, usually acicular but sometimes also shallow, for example in cypresses.
These needles can reach up to forty centimeters in length for individual species. They usually remain on the plant in winter, with the exception of the genera Larch (Larix), golden larch (Pseudolarix amabilis), bald cypress (Taxodium) and dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). The highest conifer in the world is a coastal sequoia (Sequoia sempervirens) with a trunk length of 115 meters. A Mexican bald cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) holds the record at the stem diameter of eleven meters. The oldest conifer in the world is a long-lived pine (Pinus longaeva) that already has over 5,000 years of age on the bark.


The Araucaria are among the oldest species of conifers

Our native conifers

The undemanding common spruce (Picea abies) belongs with its fast growth and the straight trunk to the most important domestic timbers. It is the main representative of the coniferous trees in our forests, which is why it is often referred to as the "bread tree of forestry". Spruce grows up to 60 meters high and up to 600 years old. Their needles are square and pointed, they are arranged radially around the branch. The cones, which are up to 15 centimeters long, hang on the branches and fall to the ground when they are ripe. As a Flachwurzler spruce are strongly windbreak vulnerable.
Unlike the spruce, the equally sized silver fir (Abies alba) is rooted deep in the ground with a long tap root, thus withstanding strong storms. Their needles are flattened, soft and have two white split-opening stripes on the underside. The cylindrical, up to 20 centimeters long cones mature in autumn. They stay on the tree until they disintegrate there and release the seeds. Fir trees are extremely shadow-tolerant and can live up to 500 years.

Common pine (Pinus sylvestris), also called Föhre, is the second most common conifer in Germany. Pines grow only about 30 meters high and grow with a cone-shaped crown, which later goes slightly out of shape. Their up to six centimeters long needles are in pairs on short stems. They are stiff and pointed and appear green, gray or yellowish. The short, egg-shaped cones contain small, winged seeds. The roots of the pine adapt flexibly to the ground, and can be deep, flat or heart-shaped. Pines reach an age of about 300 years.

Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

With its compact growth, the pine is a nice alternative to fir or spruce

A special type of pine occurring only in the Alpine region is the Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra), also known as the stone pine. It bears five-leaved coniferous tufts and has a reddish-brown, aromatic-scented wood. Pine trees grow about 25 meters high with a narrow crown and can grow up to 1,000 years old. Their branches can reach down to the ground. As the stone pine grows in the mountains, it forms a special root system of pile and sinker roots, which can hold the tree in crevices and on poor soil. Pine pine liqueur and schnapps are made from their cones.
The European larch (Larix decidua) is - unlike most conifers-deciduous.Their arranged in soft tufts needles grow rosette on the branch. The larch grows slender to 50 meters and forms a light, conical crown. The larch, like the stone pine, mainly occurs in mountainous terrain and defines the tree line there in 2,500 vertical meters. Larch wood is very firm and the small, egg-shaped cones stand upright on the branch. The heart-root is up to 700 years old.

The Common or European yew (Taxus baccata) is the oldest tree species in Europe and just like the fir extremely shadow friendly. It can grow as a tree or as a shrub and develops a broad conical to round crown. Their branches reach down to the ground. The yew grows monotonous in youth, but older specimens often have several tribes. Their needles are soft and pliable, grow to be about three inches long and stay on the tree for several years. The cones of the yew are very small and spherical. After fertilization, the seeds develop with their red, fleshy seed coat, which is falsely referred to as berries. All plant parts of the yew are highly poisonous.

Yew, Taxus baccata

Yews are extremely popular in landscaping

The common juniper (Juniperus communis), also called heather juniper, often grows bush-shaped or as a small tree with a narrow, conical crown up to 12 meters high. The needles of juniper sit in threes in whorls around the branch. They are about two inches long and very pointed. Juniper is a deep root and can grow up to 600 years old. The cones of the juniper take three years to mature, grow together, then turn black and finally form the so-called "juniper berries".

Plant conifers properly and care for them

When buying a conifer look for a well-rooted, firm bale and a rich coloring of the needles without dryness. When planning, consider the growth rate of the tree, the shape of its root system and its expected final size, and plan appropriate planting distances. The right time to plant conifers is October. Do not plant conifers in the blazing sun as the needles will quickly dry out and turn yellow there. With regard to the soil, conifers are rather undemanding unless they are stunned. Heavy soils should be made more permeable to sand.
Attention: When planting conifers, the planting hole must be at least twice as large as the root ball, and tend to be larger. Enrich the soil in the planting hole with compost and set the tree at the same height as it has stood in the pot. After planting, you should water the tree well and, in addition to large and tall specimens, cut a support post diagonally next to the planting hole so that the tree does not become skewed in windy conditions, until it is properly rooted. Water the newly planted conifer regularly and in frost-free even in winter. Conifer fertilizers are fertilized in fertilizer or calimagnesium between spring and summer.

Coniferous trees need to be well supplied with water

Coniferous trees need to be well supplied with water, especially after planting

Use conifers in the garden

Conifers are often used in garden design as a structure-forming element. Whether as hedge or sight protection, small coniferous trees such as yew, thuja or cypress are ideal for such purposes due to their dense and evergreen growth. Conifers are usually predestined for half shady and shady places in the garden and thus form a great background for flowering plants. In gardening, however, coniferous trees offer much more than dark green branches. Various breeds are now waiting with yellow-green, reddish, blue-gray or golden needles. Depending on the location, the different types of growth come into question as solitary plants, from columnar to spherical. The miniature versions come into their own in large tubs and troughs. Here you should not forget regular watering and winter protection.

Cut conifers properly

Due to their dense evergreen foliage, conifers are an excellent form of shrub. So you can educate especially the fast-growing conifers in every imaginable form, from the ball on cone and pillar to box or hedge. Bear in mind, however, that many conifers do not drive out of the old wood (exception: yew). Therefore, it is advisable to cut regularly but little to avoid a radical cut. The correct cutting time for conifers is the late summer from July. Anyone who does not aim for a shape cut on his conifers does not have to cut regularly, apart from the plastering. In winter, it is advisable to shake off the branches after heavy snowfall so that they do not break under the snow load.

Shape cut Thuja

Whether tight geometric form or happy faces - everything is possible with Thuja

Diseases and pests

If the leaf tips on the coniferous trees turn brown and needles fall in large quantities, this is often a dryness problem. Here you have to work with soil improvement and sufficient water supply. Yellow needle points indicate a magnesium deficiency in conifers.This is remedied by a reserved application of bittersalt fertilizer, which is sprayed directly onto the leaves as an aqueous solution. Various fungi cause tree diseases such as rust, scale, gray mold or haylage. From mid-April, conifers are susceptible to the bark beetle in prolonged warm weather. This beetle genus is divided into various species, which have specialized in part on different trees.
Bark-breeding bark beetles feed on the juicy layers of the tree, destroying the important lifeline of the plant. Timber-brooding bark beetles destroy the tree mechanically through their feedings in the wood, thus creating entry ports for mushrooms. Highly infested trees must be felled as quickly as possible and removed from the stock to prevent the beetle from spreading. Other conifer pests are miniature moths, spider mites and lice.

Video Board: C is for Conifers - They Might Be Giants.

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