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.
Conelet of Pinus wallichiana, the Himalayan White Pine, captured in Budapest. This species is a popular ornamental tree well outside its native range, including the not-too-cold temperate zones, in which Hungary is found.
The conspicuously spiny bristle-pointed umbos of Pinus virginiana can already be seen in the conelet phase. This picture was taken in Pinetum Blijdenstein, Hilversum, where a mature tree regularly produces plenty of cones.
The park of Bussaco (in the Serra do Buçaco, a mountain range in Portugal) has been famous for its beautiful old trees of cypresses, oaks, pines, and many other woody plants. Among the notable trees of Bussaco one can see specimens of Pinus patula, native to Mexico, exceeding 30 m in height and trunk diameters of around 1m.
This tree of Koyama Spruce (Yatsugadake-tohi) was located in a large public park, part of the botanical garden complex in Olomouc (Olmütz), eastern Czech Republic, the historical Moravia.
A young tree of Modoc Cypress (Cupressus bakeri) in the Folly Arboretum, grown from seed of a Dendrological Atlas team collection, has recently produced a good crop of cones typical for the species.