Most conifers don’t have leaves, only needles. This is how they differ from deciduous trees. They are also called softwoods or conifers. This name comes from Latin and means cone bearer. The most common conifers in our forests are spruce, pine, and fir.
A peculiarity of reproduction is characteristic of the conifers: the ovules are not protected by carpels as with the flowers but lie open. That is why this group is also called the “naked seed plants”. They also include cypresses or thuja, which are often planted as hedges. They carry needles that are halfway reminiscent of leaves.
In Germany and Switzerland, there are more conifers than deciduous trees. Firstly, coniferous wood grows faster, secondly, it is highly valued as construction timber: the trunks are long and straight. Beams, strips, panels, and much more can be sawn very well from this. Softwood is also lighter than hardwood.
Conifers are also happy with soils that contain fewer nutrients. This allows them to live far up in the mountains, where the deciduous trees have long been unable to cope with the climate.
Coniferous trees lose their needles after a few years when they are old. But they are constantly being replaced by new needles, so you hardly see them. That is why they are also called “evergreen trees”. The only exception is the larch: its needles turn golden yellow every autumn and then fall to the ground. Especially in Graubünden in Switzerland, this attracts many tourists every year.