from Fine Gardening issue 107 by Steve Aitken FirPhoto/Illustration: Kerry Moore SprucePhoto/Illustration: Kerry Moore PinePhoto/Illustration: Jennifer Benner Telling the difference among conifers can be tricky. To me, they are all Christmas trees. But calling them such doesn’t really mark me as a discerning gardener. There is, however, a quick way to tell these three common conifers apart. Look for the number of needles that come out of the same spot on a twig. If a twig bears needles in groups of two, three, or five, you can safely call it a pine. If the twig carries its needles singly, it’s a good bet you’ve got a fir or a spruce. Pull off a needle, and roll it between your fingers. If it feels flat and doesn’t roll easily, it’s a fir. If the needle has four sides and, thus, rolls easily between your fingers, it’s a spruce. Related Articles Designing with Dwarf Conifers A Parade of Spring-Flowering Trees Pruning Firs, Douglas Firs, and Spruces Conifers to Consider View the discussion thread.