Examples of conifers include spruces, firs, cedars and cypresses. All gymnosperm trees and shrubs of the phylum Coniferophyta are considered conifers, which typically have needle-like leaves and bear cones that carry their seeds. Conifers can be large trees, such as Sequoias, or smaller shrubs, such as yews.
Conifers are distinguished from other types of trees and shrubs by their foliage and method of reproduction. They typically have short, green, needle-like leaves, though some varieties possess thin, flat leaves spread out in a feather-like arrangement. Conifers keep their foliage all year long, rather than shedding it in the fall. Because their leaves don't change color, they are also referred to as evergreens.
Conifers do not flower. Instead, most conifers reproduce by bearing cones. These tightly layered scales contain both the seeds and pollen of the conifer. Male cones containing the pollen of the plant are often smaller and fall from the tree sooner than the larger female cones containing the seeds. Some coniferous shrubs, such a juniper, produce berries to carry their seeds.
Conifers thrive in cooler climates, and the northern United States and Canada are home to several coniferous forests. In the United States, evergreen trees such as Douglas and Fraser Firs are popularly used as Christmas trees. Coniferous shrubs are also popular in landscaping and as decoration.