Families of Trees
Botanically, Broadleaf trees are classed as Angiosperms. Angio comes from the Greek for “vessel”. So an Angiosperm has its seeds in a vessel, in this case an ovary. Broadleaf trees generally have wide leaves with veins. Broadleaf trees bear flowers and fruits, not cones. Wood from Broadleaf trees is called Hardwood. Oak, Beech, Walnut, Lime, Poplar, Sycamore and Ash are all European hardwoods used in furniture manufacture.
Conifers are classed as Gymnosperms because they have “naked seeds” which are not surrounded by an ovary. Gymno comes from the Greek for “naked”. Conifers have leaves that are needle-like or scale-like. They bear pollen and seed cones, not flowers and fruit. The word “Conifer” means cone-bearing. Wood from Conifers is called Softwood. Pine, Spruce, Cedar and Cypress are softwoods used in furniture manufacture. Only three conifers grow naturally in Britain – Scots Pine, Common Juniper and Yew. All the others have been introduced.
The Ginkgo, also known as the Maidenhair, is a Gymnosperm but is strictly not a Conifer. It has catkin-like pollen cones like a Conifer but does not produce seed cones. Its seeds develop into round green fruits on the end of stalks. The fertilization process involves motile sperm, a feature of Mosses, Liverworts and Ferns. Hence it is in a botanical class of its own and is often referred to as a “living fossil”.