How to Identify Conifer Trees:

Pine, Fir, Spruce, Juniper & More

Before we get started, it's important to note that most conifers are more or less edible, (some taste better than others, though!) with the exception of the yew tree family. It's highly toxic to humans and should be avoided. 

Pine tree identification:

Pine trees have clusters of needles (2-5 being most common) that can be longer than other conifer species. Cones have spirally arranged scales hanging downward.

Spruce tree identification:

Spruce trees have stiff, sharp needles that grow around the branch. Their cones hang downwards, and have thin scales and a smooth shape.

Fir tree identification:

Fir trees have soft and flat needles that have two white lines on the underside. They typically point upwards. Unlike other conifers, their cones do not hang downward, but stand up straight.

Douglas fir tree identification:

Doug fir is not a fir tree, but its own genus entirely. Their needles grow all the way around the branch, and the buds at the end are brown and cone shaped. Doug fir cones have a characteristic “mouse tail.”

Hemlock tree identification:

Hemlocks have short flat needles with 2 white lines on the underside. The needles can be different lengths on the same branch. In the spring, they produce bright green fresh tips. Hemlock cones hang downward and vary in size.

Juniper tree identification:

Junipers have needle or scale like leaves, depending on the species. Some, when young, turn to scales as they mature. They have a distinctive aromatic “gin-like” fragrance and produce blue seed cones known as juniper berries.