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Evergreens: Not All are Pine Trees

The moon from last week….

So here is my biggest revelation of the week: Not all evergreens that I see in the winter are pines….some are firs. 🙂 Both pines and firs are conifers (cone-bearing) but you can tell them apart by looking at the way the needles grow. Pines have bundles of needles and firs don’t.

That is my very unscientific description and understanding. It is good enough for me right now to recognize that I shouldn’t call all evergreens “pine trees” or even all cone-bearing trees “pine trees”. Sometimes it takes me a long time to catch on to things.

We noticed that there were some branches strewn across our hiking trail this week. Here is the first one.

We think it is White Fir.

Here is the second one that we observed on the trail. There was quite a bit of it in small branches all over one section of the trail.

We think this one is the Douglas Fir.

On another note, we have some fun stuff going on at our nature shelf.

We were surprised this morning to observe that the forsythia branches and the twig from our tree study have all started to show signs of blossoming. We brought them inside last week to “force” them to grow earlier than they would outdoors. If you want to try it, here are some instructions:
Forcing Forsythia (or other woody plants like p. willows)

Here is the first of the forsythia blooms.

Here is an attempt to take a photo of the complete branch showing the blossoms that are bursting out this morning in the morning sunshine.

Here is the sweet gum twig.

Isn’t that the coolest thing ever? How amazing and beautiful this twig is as it starts to bud out with the leaves…I assume these will be the leaves. I will keep you posted.

What a great week it is shaping up to be for nature study! These sorts of impromptu studies are the best. We had the field guides out and the magnifying lens at hand to observe the details. We are now deciding that we want to make a bigger space for all our nature collections. I will share what we come up with in the weeks to come.

4 thoughts on “Evergreens: Not All are Pine Trees

  1. Barb,
    When I saw the picture of the needles, my first thought had been hemlock, but then fir trees aren’t all that common here.

    We did a tree study last year and I found these two tree identification websites very useful. The first one is from Virginia Tech, so it may not be as much help to those people on the west coast. The other is from the Arbor Day Foundation.

    Both of these sites take you through a series of questions to help you narrow down the possibilities. The Viginia Tech page also has great fact sheets on the different trees and some photos.

    I hope these are helpful!


  2. I remember learning about pine vs fir, too. So enlightening. 😉 I love reading your blog. Thanks for giving so much of your time.

  3. We just did the cedar chapter this week and started the insect chapter. I put a drawing from my youngest up on my blog. Thank you for keeping fresh ideas going here.

  4. We took a wonderful winter walk yesterday and looked at “pine” trees. My Dh is quite smart when it comes to tree IDing so it was so fun!!! I too did not realize that the spruce trees or hemlock were not pine trees.

    I told my 6 year old that we were going to go outside to look at the evergreens because they are the only green trees in winter. He looks at me and says all confused “But there are lots of pine trees that are green too!” Ahhh, the joy of learning!

    It is also wonderful to do this in the winter because then you do not have the leaves of the other trees interferring with IDing the evergreens.

    Thanks for incouraging us to do this now.

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