The Gymnosperm Database

Flag of Norfolk Island

Few flags depict conifers. One exception is the flag of Norfolk Island (Australia), which bears the silhouette of Araucaria heterophylla. Others are the flags of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) and the U.S. state of Maine (Pinus strobus).


Lately, mobile phone towers have imitating conifers. This one in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico is trying to look like an Araucaria columnaris [R. Van Pelt, 2005.02].


Augering holes to fell the Discovery Tree, the first really big sequoia ever found, in 1852 at the Calaveras North Grove [from Tree Size Determination].


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A Rationale for the Gymnosperm Database

Database Field Descriptions, in which I tackle such prickly questions as "what is a species?" and explain why the Database doesn't tell you where to find big trees.

Review of the Gymnosperm Literature, last revised late 2013, a useful guide to where to look for information I haven't yet posted online.

Big and Old Trees

Vegetative Reproduction in Conifers and Ginkgo. An ongoing compilation of which conifer species reproduce by epicormic budding, suckering, and layering.

Conifer Longevity. This is the transcript of a talk I gave on 2010.06.11 at the Pinetum Blijdenstein (Netherlands), at the release of Aljos Farjon's new book, A Handbook of the World's Conifers. It discusses the biological basis of longevity in conifers, and presents some of the oldest known trees.

Tree Age Determination, and Roster of the Ancients. This was reprinted by the native plant societies of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

Tree Size Determination, and A Tale of Big Tree Hunting In California

Geographic Regions

Conifers of eastern North America

Conifers of western North America

Gymnosperms of Alta California

Conifers of Mexico

Gymnosperms of New Caledonia

Gymnosperms of Sichuan

Gymnosperms of Australia

Conifers of New Zealand

Conifer Hunting In Central Mexico (2005). This is mainly a travelogue with a lot of tree photos (mostly Pinus and Taxodium).

Conifer Hunting In Northern Mexico (2007). It has a strong emphasis on the motorcycle trip aspect of it—this piece was written for the local BMW riders club newsletter. However, I've also included a transcription of the trip notes, which are heavy on conifer info.

PDF file: Forest Dynamics In A Forest-Tundra Ecotone, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. This is the text of my 1993 dissertation, which people sometimes request copies of. Link opens in a new window.

History of Botany

Journal kept by David Douglas during his travels in North America 1823—1827. This is the 1914 publication of one of the great plant-hunting accounts, by the man who discovered or described many of the great conifers of Washington, Oregon, and California. Right-click HERE to download a copy (PDF, 25 MB).

Thaddeus Haenke and the Coast Redwoods

Biographical sketch for George Engelmann, New World botanist

Biographical sketch for Thomas Kirk, New Zealand botanist


Breeding Systems in Gymnosperms -- Relative Benefits and Costs of Being Monoecious or Dioecious

Uses of Conifer Wood in Musical Instruments

Why Do Trees Form Spiral Grain?

Anser pseudarboris, the Christmas Tree
Just for fun.

Conifers in Human Culture. This link will take you offsite to a chapter from an FAO report on nonwood forest products. Send me an email if the link ever goes dead and I'll replace it with an archive copy of the file.

Phytophthora, one of the deadliest pathogens in the conifer world.

White Pine blister rust, one of the deadliest pathogens in the pine world.

Recent Notes on the Database. This is the 'news' page, but it's updated quite sporadically.

Online Interview with Mary Townsend, editor of Amazing Trees, a webzine

Alphabetical Index of All Taxa On This Website

Last Modified 2017-12-29