Conifers

The conifers, division Pinophyta, also known as division Coniferophyta or Coniferae, are one of 12 extant division-level taxa within the Kingdom Plantae (Viridiplantae) and 10 within the extant land plants. 

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A plantation of conifers. image: R.Conan-Davies

Pinophytes are gymnosperms, cone-bearing seed plants with vascular tissue. All extant conifers are woody plants with secondary growth. 

The great majority are trees, though a few are shrubs. Examples include cedars, Douglas-firs, cypresses, firs, junipers, kauri, larches, pines, hemlocks, redwoods, spruces, and yews. 

 As of 1998, the division was estimated to contain eight families, 68 genera, and 629 living species.

Ecological significance

Although the total number of species is relatively small, conifers have immense ecological importance. They are the dominant plants over huge areas of land, most notably the boreal forests of the northern hemisphere,  but also in similar cool climates in mountains further south. Boreal conifers have many wintertime adaptations. 

Forms and adaptations

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Pine cones  underneath branches also showing how snow can shed away. image: R.Conan-Davies

The narrow conical shape of northern conifers, and their downward-drooping limbs, help them shed snow. Many of them seasonally alter their biochemistry to make them more resistant to freezing. While tropical rainforests have more biodiversity and turnover, the immense conifer forests of the world represent the largest terrestrial carbon sink.

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Conifer forest in winter in Switzerland. image: R.Conan-Davies



Conifer is a Latin word, a compound of conus (cone) and ferre (to bear), meaning "the one that bears (a) cone(s)".

They are also of great economic value for timber and paper production; the wood of conifers is known as softwood.




source adapted from: Pinophyta. (2016, April 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:55, May 1, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pinophyta&oldid=717138154