Conifers

There are several species of conifer in the managed forestry plantations on the Quantocks. The forest floor underneath evergreens is dark and covered in pine needle so very little grows. Here are some conifers you will on the Quantocks.

Sitka spruce

  • New sitka spruce growth
  • Spruce understorey in winter

The sitka spruce grows very quickly on many different types of soil and often reaches 46m. Its dark green needles are long and sharp, so it doesn’t get damaged by animals like deer and voles. The sitka spruce has grey bark that looks like it’s peeling away, and light brown cones with papery scales. The scales are seeds with thin wings that float away in the wind. In World War 2 the sitka spruce’s light, strong wood was used to make aircraft. Today we use it to make paper and boxes.

Douglas fir

  • Mature Douglas fir

The Douglas fir is one of our tallest trees – it can grow to 55m! It is named after a plant collector called David Douglas who sent its seeds to Britain in 1827. It grows best in good soil with plenty of light. The Douglas fir’s wood is heavy and long-lasting, so it is ideal for doors and floors.

Larch

  • Mature larch trees in summer.
  • Larch with understorey

Larch trees need plenty of light and space, and grow quickly in dry areas. Its needles are light green and soft, and turn a golden colour before they fall off in winter. Because the needles drop, the sunlight can reach the forest floor, so other plants can live beneath larch trees. It has egg-shaped cones that stay on the branches for years after the seeds have fallen away. Larch wood is a rusty colour and is used for many products, including staircases and furniture.

Yew

  • Yew
  • Yew
  • Yew

Yew trees have soft, dark green needles and light brown bark with flaky red patches. They can live to a very great age and often have many trunks. Yews grow well in chalky soil and don’t mind pollution. Birds love to eat the flesh of its bright red fruits, but the seed inside is poisonous. So are the fallen leaves and bark. This is why you don’t find them on grazing land.

Yew trees can often be found growing in churchyards. This is because early religions thought they were sacred. In the Middle Ages their flexible wood was used for making longbows.

Scots pine

  • Scots pines on the slopes of Nether Stowey Castle

Scots Pines are sometimes planted on their own in the landscape as their shape and colour contrast with the other trees. They were the earliest conifers to grow in Britain after the Ice Age, but few remain in the wild as they were cut down for their excellent wood.