Evergreens And Conifers – Not The Same Thing

evergreens and conifers

Tall lodgepole pine trees are conifers.

Evergreens and conifers are both types of trees, but they are not the same.  Do you know what is the difference between these?

I used to mistakenly assume that those two words were synonymous and all evergreens were conifers.  Whoops.  That was a big misunderstanding on my part.  There are many ways to describe trees, such as evergreen or deciduous, and broadleaf or conifer.  It can sometimes get a little bit confusing when these different terms get used to describe trees.  Well, I hope that this post will clarify for you the difference between evergreens and conifers.

evergreens and conifers

A beautiful Pinyon pine is an evergreen.

What Is An Evergreen Tree?

There are two main types of trees – evergreen or deciduous.  The main difference between these two types of trees relates to their leaves.  An evergreen tree is a tree that keeps its leaves (or needles) all year long.  In other words, an evergreen tree looks green all year long since it has its leaves or needles all year long.

evergreens and conifers

A Douglas fir is a conifer.

What Is A Conifer Tree?

A conifer tree is a cone – bearing tree.  Conifers do not produce flowers.  Instead, they reproduce through the production of cones.  All conifer trees have needles, rather than the broad leaves of trees like maples or oaks.

evergreens and conifers

Photo via Flickr.

What Are The Differences Between Evergreens And Conifers?

1 – All conifers have cones, but not all evergreens have cones.

2 – Not all evergreens are conifers.   There are many tropical trees that have broad leaves that they keep all year long and reproduce with flowers.  In the tropics it simply doesn’t get that cold during winter so the trees can keep their leaves all year long.

All conifers are evergreens, but not all evergreens are conifers because some evergreens may be flowering plants with broad leaves.

Trees In The Rocky Mountains

In the Rocky Mountains there are many evergreens and conifers.  Some of the common conifers in the Rockies include Rocky Mountain Juniper, Engelmann Spruce, Subalpine Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Pinyon Pine, Lodgepole Pine, and Douglas Fir.

As we just found out, all conifers are evergreens, but not all evergreens are conifers.  In the Rockies the winters are extremely cold and harsh, making it impossible for a tree to survive winter with leaves unless it is a conifer with needles.  Thus, in the Rocky Mountains it turns out that all of the evergreens are in fact conifers.