The general public is unaware that there are so many variety of Christmas trees. Sure they know of the blue spruce, a couple types of fir like Fraser and Canaan, and the traditional white pine – but most believe all of those are evergreens. The meanings of the words “evergreen” and “conifer” are not the same thing. This interesting look at taxonomies was inspired by the blogpost, “Christmas Tree Taxonomy“, from My Chicago Botanic Garden.

The truth is the “Christmas Tree” intersects both the “evergreens” and “conifers” set. Evergreens are any plants that remain green through the winter, like pine, spruce, fir, and Douglas fir. Conifers, on the other hand, are a classification of trees that produce seeds inside cones. These trees include pine, spruce, fir, and Douglas fir. See the connection?

There are also species outside the joint classification, such as Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. A conifer  – a bald cypress – loses its needles and was most likely the sad, neurotic comic strip character’s holiday foliage.

Whichever forest-like structure you choose to decorate, remember that what makes things alike and different is the driving force behind taxonomy.

Melody K. Smith

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