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The name ‘conifer’ is as many other plants are, derived from Latin. It means ‘cone bearing’. Most conifers are grow in the form of trees rather than shrubs. Bear this in mind when you are next tempted by that dwarf conifer at your local garden centre! That said, they can provide structure, form and leaf colour all year round. In the wild they are found in all continents other than Antarctica. Conifers have had a bad press since the 1970's due to their use as a hedging plant as well as species being chosen for commercial forest crops.
Conifers are bisexual with their reproductive organs located in separate cones. Each form can look very different from another due to differences foliage. It can be either needle like or covered in scales but either way, they have a large number of variences in shape and shades of green and yellow. They have distinctly scented resin which 'bleeds' to protect the tree from infections when the trees are damaged in storms or by pests. This resin when fossilised becomes the semi-precious amber.
Conifers play an enormous role in terms of their economic value. Relatively quick growing, their softwood trunks are used primarily for timber and pulped for making paper and card.