Which Evergreen is my Christmas Tree?

Identifying coniferous trees can be difficult. Not to be confused with carnivorous trees, coniferous trees are the ones that stay green throughout the winter, and are often used for decorating.

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There are many variety of coniferous trees, many of which you can see while on a camping trip in Ontario or elsewhere in North America. While there are many different sub-species of each type, here we’ll talk only broadly of the defining features of each.


Pine trees come in a lot of different varieties, but share one major trait in common. They all have needles, and the needles all come off of the stem in bunches, from 2 to 5 needles per bunch.

Although there are a lot of different pines, two stand out in Ontario’s backcountry: The Red Pine and the White Pine. The Red Pine has long hard needles that come in bunch of two, while the White Pine has long soft needles that come in bunch of 5. Neither tree is particular good at Christmas, although White Pine needles are great for making tea!


Cedar has flat “leaves” that are hard to describe. I’m just going to add a picture. Needless to say, cedars are terrible at doing Christmas.

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Fir look a lot more like a Christmas tree, but usually aren’t. They have shorter needles with blunted ends that look like they’re attached to the stem with adorable little suction cups. The cones on Firs also point upwards, because Firs are annoyingly cheerful all the time.


Spruce have short needles like Firs, but they are not attached to the stem with suction cups, and their cones point downwards. This makes them great Christmas trees! Lately, however, Spruce trees have started to be replaced by Firs because Fir needles stay on longer, and by Plastic, which is a new variety of tree grown in the US and Canada.