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Plant Diversity

Tracheophytes—gymnosperms

How do you tell fir, pine, and spruce trees apart?

The best way to tell the difference between these trees is by their cones and needles:

Species

Needles

Cones

Balsam fir

Needles are 1–1.5 in (2.54–3.81 cm) long, flat, and arranged in pairs opposite each other

Upright, cylindrical, and 2–4 in (5–10 cm) long

Blue spruce

Needles are roughly 1 in (2.54 cm) long, grow from all sides of the branch, are silvery blue in color, and are very stiff and prickly

3.5 in (8.89 cm) long

Douglas fir

Needles are 1–1.5 in (2.54–3.81 cm) long, occur singularly, and are very soft

Cone scales have bristles that stick out

Fraser fir

Similar to Balsam fir, but needles are smaller and more rounded

Upright, 1.6–2.4 inches (4–6 cm) long

Scotch pine

Two needles in each bundle; needles are stiff, yellow green, and 1.5–3 in (3.81–7.62 cm) long

2–5 in (5–12.7 cm) long

White pine

Five needles in each bundle; needles are soft and 3–5 in (7.62–12.7 cm) long

4–8 in (10–20.3 cm) long

White spruce

Dark-green needles are rigid but not prickly; needles grow from all sides of the twig and are less than an inch (2.54 cm) long

1–2.5 in (2.54–6.35 cm) long and hang downward



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