Provincial Trees

When the first settlers came to Canada from Europe, in many cases the first thing they did was to cut down trees. Those trees were built into homes, and provided the materials for a home, furniture, utensils, preparing food and heat.

There are many lovely trees that are native to Canada. Since I am posting this in while it is still winter (although not for much longer!), I am going to tell you a bit about coniferous trees (or evergreens).

fall2016-3About 40 percent of Canada is covered in forest and most of that is coniferous (woody plants that produce cones). Conifers that are native to Canada are the pine, spruce, fir, hemlock, cedar, cypress, Douglas fir, and larch.

There are seven families of conifers, but only three families that are native to Canada: Pinaceae, Cupressaceae, and Taxaceae.

The Pinaceae family is probably the most well-known. The trees in this family have needle-like leaves, small to large woody cones, and produce resin. There are eight genera in this family, six of which are native to Canada: pine, fir, spruce, larch, hemlock and the Douglas fir.

We are going to look at some ways to identify the trees in this family by just looking at their needles and cones.



  • long needle-like leaves in bunches of 2 to 5
  • each needle is part of a circle when the bunch is put together


  • thick, rough and woody cones that do not bend
  • cones hang down



  • single needles attached to the twig with a stem
  • attached to twig in a spiral like a bottle brush
  • needles are stiff, have a sharp point, and four sides if you roll them in your fingers


  • on tips of branches and hang down
  • smooth, thin scales and are easy to bend



  • two whitish stripes on underside of needle
  • arranged on two sides of the twig and curve upwards so that there are few needles on the bottom of the twig
  • needle is flexible, flat, and attached to twig with what looks like a suction cup
  • twigs are stiff


  • grow near the top of the tree
  • grow upright on the branch
  • usually disintegrate on the tree



  • needles are are short, flat, tapered, and rounded at the ends
  • needles have two white stripes on undersides
  • attach to twigs with a small stem on either sides of twig
  • twigs are flexible and look like feathery sprays


  • one of the smallest cones
  • hang down on the tips of branches



  • needles are an inch or so long, soft, and sprout in clusters of up to 30-40
  • they turn yellow and fall off in the autumn


  • grow upright on branches
  • start out red, turn green, and then brown when mature

Activity: Do you know the names of all the trees in your neighbourhood? Do any of the provincial trees grow near you? This week your challenge is to identify all the trees that grow near where you live. Make a local tree guide. Take a walk through your neighbourhood and notice the individual trees. Get to know one tree at a time by noticing it’s shape, bark, leaves/needles, and seeds/cones. Identify it using a tree guide.

Notebook Pages: Tree Journal Page

Guides: Forest Trees of Maine; Tree Book BC; Tree Atlas Ontario.

CONIFERS: Alberta: Lodgepole Pine; Ontario: Eastern White Pine; Manitoba: White Spruce; Newfoundland & Labrador: Black Spruce; Nova Scotia: Red Spruce; New Brunswick: Balsam Fir; Yukon: Subalpine Fir; British Columbia: Western Redcedar; Northwest Territories: Tamarack Larch

BROADLEAF: Quebec: Yellow Birch; Saskatchewan: Paper Birch; Prince Edward Island: Red Oak; Canada: Sugar Maple

National Tree Day: September 27, 2017


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