Northwest Conifers

Overview on Northwest Conifers

The conifers native to the Pacific Northwest are members of just three botanical families: Pine, Cypress, and Yew. These families divide into one or more groups or genera. Each genus divides into one or more species. In the Northwest, it's easy to distinguish one genus from another. You can do that just by looking at the needles or leaves.

Pine Family – Pinaceae

The Pine Family includes the following genera that are native to the Northwest.

Douglas FirDouglas Fir – Pseudotsuga

Needles: 1" long, soft points, all around twig

Cones: 3-pointed bracts

Bark: Brown, deep furrows

1 native species


Western HemlockHemlocks – Tsuga

Needles: Short, flat

Cones: Rounded scales

Bark: Gray, small deep furrows

Has drooping top.

2 native species


Pacific Silver FirFirs – Abies

Needles: Groomed with soft points

Cones: Upright at treetop

Bark: Smooth, gray, scaly plates or small furrows

6 native species


Ponderosa PinePines – Pinus

Needles: Bundles of 2, 3 or 5

Cones: Woody

8 native species


Sitka spruceSpruces – Picea

Needles: Sharp points, thin, flat, all around twig

Cones: 3" long, paper-thin scales

Bark: Gray, scaly

3 native species


Western larchLarches – Larix

Needles: Bundles of 25, 1-2" long

Cones: 1-2" long, whiskery bracts

Bark Flaky scales, furrowed

Where: Cascades

2 native species


Cypress Family – Cupressaceae

The Cypress Family includes these groups of several genera.

Western Red CedarNew World Cedars

Leaves: Flat, scaled - 4 species 

Junipers and Cypress

Leaves: Appressed to twig, scaled or awl-like - 4 species


Needles: Flat and flattened on twig


Yew Family – Taxaceae

The Yew Family includes just one genus and one species.

Pacific YewYew – Taxus

Needles: Flat, flattened on twig, lighter green underneath

Fruit: Red berry-like aril

Bark: Thin gray scales over smooth red bark

1 native species


© 2014 Ken Denniston