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.
Mature cones of Athrotaxis laxifolia, a Tasmanian conifer, growing outdoor at Pinetum Blijdenstein, Hilversum, Holland.
Trees of Cedrus libani subsp. stenocoma, introduced from Turkey via the Dendrological Atlas Project, have reached their age of maturation (27 years) at the Kecskemét Arboretum
A young tree of Pinus tabuliformis, cultivated at the Budakeszi Herbarium, has begun producing cones in recent years
A cluster of ripening cones (soon ready to open) of a mature tree of Calocedrus decurrens, recently observed in the Folly Arboretum
Conelet of an old tree of Pinus rigida (Pitch Pine) recently observed at Szarvasi Arboretum, east-central Hungary
Typical coning branch of Juniperus coxii, often included in J. recurva, as seen a few years ago at the Hillier Arboretum, south England
Unusually, a young 4 m-high-tree of Hiba, or Thujopsis dolabrata, growing at the Kórnik Arboretum of the Polish Institute of Dendrology, was loaded with cones on a visit a few years ago.
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.