After a bout of food poisoning this weekend this will be a short one.
It is interesting how often I am asked how to tell different conifers (trees that produce cones) apart. After years of teaching science and nature this is my quick and dirty guide. It is by no means my intellectual property; I learned it from someone else, who learned it from someone else, and so on.
Fir is flat – the needles of fir trees are flat.
Spruce is square – the needles are square. You can roll them between your fingers but you will feel subtle edges and sides.
Pine comes in pairs – pine needles always come in pairs or more.
If you shake hands with a tree (i.e., gently grasp a tree branch) spruce will be poke or unfriendly. This is because the needles don’t give way as easily.
The other main conifer around Edmonton is the tree with the identity crisis: the tamarack. The tamarack produces cones but sheds its needles over the winter. Tamaracks typically have bundles of three-sided needles.