Conifer glossary

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The following glossary of conifer terms can aid you in the course readings.

Bark: the outside covering on a tree’s trunk and branches, the tree’s “skin.”

Branch: limb of a tree or shrub that grows out from the trunk.

Bud: There are two kinds of buds. One kind is the flower bud. The second kind is the starting point for plant growth and it is the one we use when discussing wildfires. These buds grow at the tips of tree and shrub branches, at the tips of roots, and sometimes in other places. Buds have lots of living cells.

Cambium: a layer of living cells under a tree’s bark. This layer of a tree’s trunk, branches, and roots produces the xylem and phloem, the cell layers that together carry water and nutrients between roots and leaves.

Cell: the smallest living part of a plant that can make new living parts.

Cone: the “package” in which a conifer stores its seeds.

Conifer: the kind of tree that stores its seeds in cones and have needle-like leaves.  Most keep their needles through the winter.

Crown: a tree’s top, where most of the buds and leaves grow.

Duff: the upper layer of soil in a forest. Duff is made up of dead, rotting plant parts. Litter is the layer of dead plant parts, not yet rotted, on top.

Leaf: the green part of a plant that uses sunlight, water, and minerals to provide energy to the tree. Leaves can be wide and as flat as paper, or they can be shaped like needles or scales.

Mineral soil: soil that has very little dead plant material in it. In a forest, mineral soil is usually below the duff.

Needle: leaf of a conifer. Needles contain very busy living cells.  Most  needles live three years or longer, then fall off.

Root: the part of a plant that lives underground. Roots collect water & minerals from the soil & carry them into the stem of the plant. Roots support the plant.  Roots have living cells at their tips & under their “bark.”

Seed: a very tiny, living plant; just waiting to grow, and its protective covering, filled with nutrients. Some seeds have fluffy or scaly “wings” to catch the wind as they fall. The seed needs just the right temperature, water, sunlight, and soil conditions before it can grow.

Trunk: the part of a tree that connects leaves and branches in the air to roots in the ground. People often call the trunk of a small tree its “stem.”

Wood: the strong material inside a tree’s bark and cambium that supports the tree and helps carry water from roots to leaves. Wood consists mainly of cells produced in past years that have died and become hollow.