conifers mixed (0643)
The conifers are a group of about 588 species of trees and shrubs that include many of the best-known plants in the world. All conifers bear seeds inside cones, woody protective structures. There are seven families of conifers. The largest is the Pine family (232 species), which includes such familiar trees as pine, spruce, fir, and larch. Most plants in this family have needlelike foliage and bear their seeds in a cone formed of papery or woody scales whorled about a central axis. The Pine family includes the oldest known trees, the bristlecone pines, many of which are known to be more than four thousand years old.
Almost all conifers are trees, and so they create forests that provide habitat for wildlife and a wide variety of insects, fungi, and smaller plants. Some conifer forests support extremely complex ecosystems with very high levels of biodiversity. Conifers are also very important economically because they provide wood and wood products that are used to make buildings, furniture, and paper. Before petroleum was widely used, conifers were also the source of many important organic chemicals used to make paint and other finishes, solvents, and oils used by industry. Native peoples have used conifers to make houses and necessary implements, and some peoples have even used them for clothing (from woven bark) and food (seeds).