Here are ten Conifers commonly found in Britain. Note that the prevalence of certain species can vary across different regions and different habitats. Woodlands or plantations may be predominantly scots pine or douglas fir for example but in urban areas there are many individual species. Click on the name in RED to get more information. Click on any photo to enlarge it.
Some conifers can be recognised by their distinctive cones. For others the cone tells you what group of closely-related conifers the tree belongs to. For example, the cones of Pines look quite different from those of Cedars. Seed cones, like female flowers, receive pollen and develop seeds. The seed cones are usually woody to protect the developing seeds. The protection takes the form of scales which have distinctive colours and shapes and lock together. The scales open up at an appropriate time to release the seeds. Note that Junipers and Yews have fleshy scales.
Conifers develop their seeds within woody cones. Broadleaf trees develop their seeds within ovaries that are part of flowers. The female cones of Pines, Spruces, Firs, Cedars and Larches have a series of overlapping woody scales arranged spirally along the central stem. At each point along the stem a bract scale sits on top of a seed scale and between them lies the seed. The bract scale’s only purpose is to protect the seed, when it is first formed. In Conifers the seed is not protected by an ovary. As the name implies, the bract scale has developed from a modified leaf called a bract. The bract scales in most Conifers are very small and can’t be seen. The seed scales, in comparison, form the outer cone covering and are often called cone scales. However, in some Firs the bract scales stick out from the seed scales and can be used to ID the tree as in the Caucasian Fir in which the yellow tip of each bract scale extends beyond the cone in a distinctive way.