by Katherine Wagner-Reiss


1. The word conifer means:
A) Cone-bearing
B) Seed-bearing
C) Flower-bearing
D) None of the above

2. How do conifers reproduce?
A) Male flowers and female flowers
B) Male pollen cones and female seed cones
C) Spores
D) None of the above

3. How are female seed cones pollinated?
A) Flying insects
B) Wind
C) Crawling insects
D) All of the above

4. Why are female seed cones rather than male pollen cones used as decorations?
A) Male pollen cones are smaller
B) Male pollen cones disintegrate on the tree after a few weeks
C) Female seed cones are larger and can stay on the tree for two or more years
D) All of the above

5. What are the three types of conifer leaves? (hint: see photo above)
A) Scales, needles, and hammers
B) Scales, needles, and awls
C) Short needles, medium needles, and long needles
D) None of the above

6. Conifers, also known as evergreens, do not hold onto their leaves forever; they drop the oldest leaves each year. How long does it take a conifer to turn over all of its leaves?
A) One to seven years, depending on the soil
B) One to seven years, depending on the species
C) Eight to ten years, depending on the species
D) None of the above

7. Most conifers are evergreen, but which of these conifers drop all of their leaves each fall i.e. are deciduous?
A) Larch
B) Baldcypress
C) Dawn-redwood
D) All of the above

8. Resin is a sticky, aromatic substance exuded from injured bark, especially in conifers in the pine family. What are some functions of resin?
A) Wound healing for physical injuries to the tree
B) Physical deterrent and chemical toxin against insects and pathogens
C) Preventing black rat snake predation on nests of red-cockaded woodpeckers
D) All of the above

9. What are the white lines seen on certain conifer leaves, e.g. on hemlocks?

A) Stomatal bloom, waxy powder that waterproofs the air-exchange pores
B) Markings to guide insect pollinators to the pollen
C) Injured leaf tissue caused by extremes in temperature
D) All of the above

10. Which of the following are historical uses of conifers as food?
A) Pine “nuts,” the seeds of pines
B) Arborvitae leaf and bark tea, which may contain neurotoxins
C) Juniper berries flavoring gin
D) All of the above

11. Why do some conifer needles appear blue?
A) Waxy coating on the green needles makes them appear blue
B) Blue pigments produced to signal to birds that the leaves are toxic
C) Blue pigments produced to capture alternative wavelengths of light
D) All of the above

12. How do evergreen conifer leaves survive freezing weather?
A) Cellular adaptations prevent water column destruction during freeze-thaw cycles
B) The small surface area of the leaf prevents snow accumulation and breakage
C) Waxy coating on the leaf surface prevents desiccation
D) All of the above

Answer key: 1) A 2) B 3) B 4) D 5) B 6) B 7) D 8) D 9) A 10) D 11) A 12) D

May I suggest a winter excursion to the Morris Arboretum to check out hundreds of different conifer species and cultivars from all over the temperate world? Look for conifers bearing cones, conifer leaves with stomatal lines, conifer trunks seeping resin, blue conifers, deciduous conifers, dwarf conifers, and weeping conifers! One of my favorite pines is Pinus koraiensis ‘Morris Blue.’ A young 2008 specimen can be easily found in the Azalea Meadow, just beyond the late George Sugarman’s colorful aluminum statues; its needles demonstrate silvery stomatal lines. Find this or any of the trees at the Morris Arboretum at Collection Connection.

Katherine has her Certificate in Botany from the New York Botanical Garden and is a botanical tour guide and free-lance writer. You can contact her with comments or requests for photos at