The allure of conifers…
There is a boom in the realm of conifer literature in recent years and this book is among the major contributions to "conifer science". The increasing interest towards conifers is nurtured by exciting new discoveries, the recognition of a greater need for their conservation, and their benefits and usage in many arenas of human life. And as stated in a personal note by the authors, "if botany is "scientia amabilis"—the "amiable science"—then, for us, the study of conifers is "scientia amabilissima"—the "most amiable science.""
Conifers include approximately 625–700 species worldwide and up to 1000 taxa including distinctive subspecies and varieties, compared with an estimated 250,000 species of flowering plants, but conifers are much more important to the world's landscape and ecology than their relatively small number of species might suggest. Conifers have their own unique appearance, especially when compared with broad-leaved trees. Enthusiasts and collectors around the world have provided a huge niche for them among cultivated plants, and the unparalleled beauty of many conifers—especially cypresses, cedars, firs, and spruces—enhances innumerable landscapes, both public and private. Anyone looking for something uncommon to complement a plant collection can choose from an extraordinary variety of conifers ranging from the magnificence of giant sequoias, cedars, and golden larches to the innumerable shapes and sizes of dwarf and slow-growing species and varieties. Conifers, nearly all of which are evergreen, also offer a delightfully refreshing contrast in a winter landscape. This is especially true in temperate zones, where deciduous trees usually prevail. By providing a spectacle throughout the year, conifers are notable compared with trees that spend half the year leafless.
Why conifers?... Driven by competition from broad-leaved trees into regions where there is little competing vegetation, in nature most conifers inhabit cold, dry, and austere places that are inhospitable to humankind: the endless taiga, vast expanses of high-mountain and subalpine forests, steep mountain cliffs, the periphery of deserts, and seemingly boundless marshlands. Because conifers generally occur in such unfavorable places, it is no surprise that they are often invoked as symbols of wild, primeval nature.
This book is a tribute to these beautiful plants. And the team that prepared this book pays tribute to all – the
Benefactor, the late Mr. Walter Hunnewell, as well as the great number of supporters, foundations, volunteers, field guides and many others – who helped to create it.
The lush foliage of a Mexican pine, Pinus montezumae (rarely cultivated in the colder temperate zones), seen at the living collection of the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, England
One of the popular exotic conifers widely cultivated in Hungary, Platycladus orientalis; this is a tree of about 14 m high with a trunk diameter of 40 cm.
Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, can be seen in many living collections in Japan, including the large plantings of the Nagai Botanical Garden in Osaka. This tree shows off the species' typical habit of sprouting at the trunk base.
Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is commonly cultivated in Hungary, exhibiting a wide range of morphological variation. One tree at the living collection of the University of West Hungary, Sopron, had a good crop of cones last year.
Good example of a fir tree bark with prominent resin blisters - this tree of Abies amabilis was photographed in Pinetum Blijdenstein, Holland.
Small stand of Pinus hartwegii trees at ca. 3600 m near Paso de Cortés, with Popocatépetl (5452 m) in the background. This photo is a contribution of Fanni Vámos, Dendrological Atlas team member.
This year, pollen cones of Pinus greggii appeared for the first time on a tree in the living collection at Budakeszi Herbarium
A young tree of the Arolla Pine (Swiss Stone Pine), Pinus cembra, has begun producing its cones at a school's living collection in Szabadegyháza, Hungary
A young tree of Pinus armandii cultivated at the living collection of Budakeszi Herbarium started to show its ovuliferous cones for the first time.
A north Australian tropical gymnosperm, Prumnopitys ladei, cultivated at the greenhouse of Pinetum Blijdendstein, Netherlands (photographed in April 2013 at time of a Conifers Around the World presentation organised by the Stichting Pinetum Blijdenstein)