Evergreen Needles -From A Pine, Spruce, or Fir tree?

evergreen needles

What kind of tree are these evergreen needles on? Photo via Flickr.

Evergreen needles grow on many types of trees in the Rocky Mountains.  Here are two tests to help you quickly identify if the needles are from a pine, spruce or fir tree.

The Rocky Mountains are full of many different types of trees.  Many of the trees are deciduous, which lose their leaves and go dormant during winter.  However, there are also loads of evergreen trees which have needles all year long.  It can be challenging to tell apart a pine tree from a spruce or a fir tree from a spruce tree.  These two tests of the evergreen needles will help you know the general type of tree.

evergreen needles

Photo via Flickr.

First Test – Look At How The Evergreen Needles Are Attached To The Branch

Pine trees, spruce trees, and fir trees are all evergreen and have needles.  At first glance the needles may all appear similar, but take a closer look.  This first test will help you know if it is a pine tree or not.

evergreen needles

Look at how these needles from a Pine tree are in clusters where they attach. Photo via Flickr.

Pine trees have needles that grow in small clusters.  Each cluster is connected at the base and attached to the branch.  Different kinds of pine trees have a different number of needles in the cluster, between 2 and 5.

evergreen needles

Look closely and you can see the Fir needles attach individually to the branch. Photo via Flickr.

On the other hand, spruce and fir trees have needles that are attached individually to the branch of the tree.

Second Test – Roll The Evergreen Needles In Your Fingers

Now that you have determined you have either a spruce of fir tree, you are ready for this second test.  Take a needle and attempt to roll it in your fingers.  If the needle rolls easily it is a spruce.  If it doesn’t roll then it is a fir.  Remember – spruce = spin; fir = flat.  Read this old post about how to tell apart a spruce and fir tree.