Breaking the Mold

We all learned that evergreen trees keep their leaves and have cones, while hardwood trees drop their leaves and have nuts, berries, or wind blown seed, right? Well, not so fast, buster. There are a few trees that break the mold. Trees and shrubs in the juniper family are considered evergreen, but their female cone has a berry-like appearance. A member of this family that is found throughout our region is the Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), which is actually not a tree cedar, but a member of the juniper family. True cedars belong to the family, Cedrus; many of these trees are found in the Pacific northwest. The Maryland native Atlantic white cedar is not a true cedar, either— it belongs to the family, chamaecyparis, which is also known as the “false cypress family.”

Let’s not forget the pinyon pine that produces an edible nut from its cone. Also, there are some deciduous conifers that shed their needles in the fall, like bald cypress, larch, and dawn redwood. The Ginkgo is another conifer that drops its leaves, but botanists cannot agree if it is actually a hardwood or conifer. To top it off, there are some deciduous, broad leaf plants that produce cones to distribute their seed, such as the native hazel alder. Dense groves of hazel alder are found in our area along streams, especially in the western part of the county around Myersville and Wolfsville. Finally, there are broad leaf plants like Southern magnolia and the American holly that do not drop all of their leaves in the fall, and are considered to be evergreens. These plants that break the mold probably had taxonomists scratching their heads when they had to fit them into some sort of classification system years ago.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature note for 5/8/21