Pine family characteristics (pinaceae)

Pinaceae family

What are pinaceae?

The pine family or Pinaceae comprises 250 plant species distributed mainly by the cold northern hemisphere. They are classified within the group of gymnosperms or plants with naked seeds, and within the conifers.

They are mainly trees, rarely shrubs, which can reach very high dimensions as some of their representatives, like redwoods, that get the record of larger trees.

Forest of Scots pine in Norway

Forest of Scots pine in Norway

Importance of pinaceae

From an ecological point of view they play a very important role because many of its components are able to colonize the areas with the most extreme climates where other flowering plants have not been able to adapt.

Among the best known trees of this family we have: pines, firs, larches, cedars, etc.

Most northern European forests consist of trees belonging to this family and the most abundant within the Eurasian taiga forest are spruce (Picea abies) or red pine forest (Pinus sylvestris).

To the east, on the Siberian taiga, Picea obovata is replacing the common spruce and, further east, this is replaced by the Siberian larch (Larix sibirica)

From an economic point of view, they are of great interest to man because they take advantage of its wood, its resins, essential oils.

The industry uses them to produce paper, plastics, paints, soaps or cosmetics, etc. The pharmacy industry gets medicines.

They are of great importance in gardening as trees that provide shade and beauty to the large gardens, avenues or squares.

Many of them provide edible seeds or are used as folk remedies. (More information on “Uses of pinaceae“)

Forest of Scots pine in Norway

Spruces (Picea abies) full of cones on a Norwegian landscape


Leaves (1): Simple, usually perennial (except Larix and Pseudolarix), needle-shaped. In the case of Pinus, spirally arranged on a short stems called brachyblasts (2). In other genres appear on normal branches (long shoots) as in the firs, spruces, hemlocks, or pseudotsugas. Larches and cedars insert them on the two types of stems.

Tallos (2): Woody

pine leaves

Needles of Swiss pine (Pinus cembra)

Brachyblasts of Larix decidua

Brachyblasts of European larch (Larix decidua)

Flowers: Neither calyx nor corolla. “Male and female flowers” on the same plant. Formed by lignified strobili.

Male flowers (3): Formed by bracts that are arranged around de axis of strobili.

Male flowers of Scots pine

Male flower of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)

Male flowers of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis)

Male flowers of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis)

Female flowers (4): Formed by two types of scales: Fertile (Seed scales or ovuliferous scales) and infertile (Bract scales). Each fertile scale has an infertile one at the base.

Female flowers of mountain pine

Female flowers of mountain pine (Pinus mugo)

Female flowers of mountain pine

Norway spruce female flower (Picea alba)

Seeds of Stone pine (Pinus pinea)

Seeds of Stone pine (Pinus pinea)

Cone of Norway spruce (Picea abies)

Stamens: Two below each bract.

Ovules: Two above each fertile scale.

Seeds (5): Two, placed on each fertile scale resulting from of egg maturation. Winged seeds to be dispersed by the wind.

Fruit: Cones (6). Closed till seed maturation.


They contain the following genera:












More information on pine nuts and pines.

This article was endorsed by Julián Masats - Technical agricultural engineer specialized in horticulture and gardening.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

6 February, 2023

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