Crytomeria japonica from the Kew Bonsai Collection
Bonsai Tree Species Guide for Pines and Conifers

The conifers, are cone-bearing seed plants with vascular tissue, woody trees with just a few being shrubs. Typical examples of conifers include cedars, cypresses, firs, junipers, larches, pines, hemlocks, redwoods, spruces, and yews.

In the UK, there are only a few Native, and Naturalised Conifers species, but despite that they form a major part of our forest areas both natural and planted.

Pinus parvifoliaThey form a significant source of wood, and other wood based products. Conifer woods are off varying abilities and are used in a multitude of projects from Ship building to Furniture making with even it bark chips being highly sought after to make rich composts and mulches.

Taxonomically, conifers all belong to the plant division; Pinophyta, also known as division Coniferophyta or Coniferae. There are between 600-700 species of confers, depending on who definitions you accept. Conifers are an ancient species with fossil remains dating back over 300 million years.


1 Cedrus atlantica

Atlas Cedrus

A close relative of the cedar of Lebanon, the Atlas cedar's bluish tinge and ascending branches help to differentiate it from other cedars. Allow plenty of space for proper development. Dark green needles and cones, which are held upright above the foliage, add to the impressive appearance. Young specimens retain a pyramidal shape but the tree takes on a more open form with age.


2 Cedrus brevifolia

Cyprus cedar

Cedrus brevifolia is a rare species with slow growth, but eventually develops into a medium sized tree, attaining a height at maturity of 8 to 24 m. The Cyprian cedar is distinguished from C. libani only by the habitual form, shorter leaves 0.5 to 1.6 cm in length. Dark green needles and cones, which are held upright above the foliage, add to the impressive appearance. Young specimens retain a pyramidal shape but as the tree gets olderthe crown gets broader and umbrella shaped.


3 Cedrus libani

Cedar Of Lebanon

This is a large stately evergreen, with a massive trunk when mature, and wide-sweeping, often horizontalbranches, which originate on the lower trunk. Allow plenty of space for proper development. Dark green needles and cones, which are held upright above the foliage, add to the impressive appearance. Young specimens retain a pyramidal shape but the tree takes on a more open form with age. Like most true cedars, it does not like to be transplanted, and prefers a pollution-free, sunny environment.


4 Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Lawson Cypress, Port Orford cedar

Largely conical in shape the Lawson Cypress lend them self naturally to creating elegant Formal Upright Bonsai. Its deep green leaves and reddish brown bark form a striking contrast adding to its elegance and character.


5 Chamaecyparis obtusa Nana

Dwarf Hinoki Cypress

A slow-growing conifer with distinctive tiny fans of golden foliage on a somewhat irregular-shaped bush. Its ideal for a small garden or rockery or patio where it can be grown on in pots for many years. They make ideal small to medium sized bonsai.


6 Chamaecyparis pisifera Boulevard

Boulevard False Cypress, Japanese False Cypress, Sawara False Cypress

Boulevard is a fairly slow-growing conifer, reaching an height of about 3 meters in 19 years. It has soft blue-green foliage and forms a broad, silvery-blue pyramid. Ideal for upright style bonsai.


7 Cupressus macrocarpa

Monterey Cypress

The unique wind-swept flat top appearance are what most people recognise about the Monterey Cypress. Native to the US they can grow to 65 feet tall, and even 80 feet tall in sheltered locations. Know as perennial trees many of them in the US are as old as 2000 years. They make stately medium to large Formal Bonsai. The photo shows a famous Monterey, of the Golden State Bonsai Federation Collection North collection to which it was donated by Katsumi Kinoshita.


8 Juniperus chinensis

Chinese Juniper

The Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinensis) is a shrub or tree, very variable in shape, reaching 1-20 m tall. It is a popular ornamental tree or shrub in gardens and parks, with over 100 named cultivars selected for various characters.


9 Juniperus communis

Common Juniper

Common juniper has the largest geographic range of any woody plant in the world. It is distributed throughout Temprate Northern Hemisphere , USA, Greenland, Iceland, throughout Europe and in northern Asia and Japan.and is even found in parts of Northern Africa. It grows as Coniferous shrub or columnar tree. It grows as a low mat-forming shrub 2'-5' tall and 7'-13' across and in Europe it is quite common in its treelike form when it can reach height of about 25 .


10 Juniperus rigida

Temple Juniper, Needle Juniper

This East Asian Juniper has an open habit with graceful drooping branches, is a much cherished tree in Chinese and Japanese Gardens and Temples and also much loved as Bonsai. There are many fine and old examples of Juniperus rigida Bonsai.


11 Juniperus squamata

Blue Juniper, Flaky Juniper, Nepal juniper, Single Seed Juniper

Juniperus squamata, known as Single seed Juniper, is a juniper native to Himalaya and China, from north-eastern Afghanistan east to western Yunnan in south-western China.This juniper has striking blue-gray foliage that spread out like a 'blue carpet'. This prostrate variety that is especially suitable for cascade and semi-cascade styles. It has a slow to medium growth rate, of about 10' in ten years.


12 Larix decidua

European Larch

Tall decidous conifer tree upto 150 feet. Bark in younger trees is greyish but dark brown in older trees. Strongly smells of turpentine. Range mainly in Central europe in the Highlands a Pioneering Species the Larch is Fast growing and shade inloterant.


13 Larix kaempferi

Japanese Larch, Karamatsu

The beautiful Larch is a deciduous conifers which is very popular among bonsai growers around the world. Its small colorful purple cones, lime green spring foliage, bronze autumn foliage, redish brown makes a Japanese Larch an all season attraction and is a highly popular species for Bonsai in Japan and Europe.


14 Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Dawn Redwood

The lovely fast growing Metasequoia glyptostroboides is a deciduous conifer with brown red coloured bark and a rich-green, feathery leaves which turn bronze-gold in autumn. Thought to have been extinct it was discovered in China in 1941 in Western China. This species has been on earth for many millions of years.


15 Picea abies

Norway Spruce

This very hardy plant makes an excellent Bonsai with its conical shape and upright nature lending itself well to Formal Upright medium and large Bonsai. It is extremely hardy and tolerant to Zones 2/3.


16 Picea glauca

White Spruce, Western White Spruce, Canadian Spruce

The White Spruce is native to the north of North America. It is of major economic importance in Canada for its wood which is used primarily for paper-making and also as frequenty for Christmas trees.


17 Picea glauca Albertina

Dwarf Spruce, Albertina Spruce

A Popular Tree in American Gardens the Dwarf Alberta spruce trees may eventually reach 12' in height, but only over a long period of time as it just grows between 2"-4" per year. They have a classic "Christmas tree" shape. The green needles have a tight, densely-packed growth habit that gives dwarf Alberta spruce trees a "fuzzy" look. They make lovely Bonsai.


18 Picea pungens

Blue Spruce, Colorado Blue Spruce

Native to the S. W. North America this species occurs in many forms in the wild and in cultivation. It was introduced to Britain in about 1862. Recently it has become popular as a christmas tree. Blue spruce prefers slightly acid moist ground otherwise it can become prone to predation by aphids which spoil the colour and density of the mature needles and eventually cause defoliation.


19 Pinus densiflora

Japanese Red Pine

Closely related the Scots pine with its reddish brown bark it has become a popular ornamental and has several cultivars. The height of this tree is between 20 and 35 meters. The Japanese red pine prefers full sun on well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Widly cultivated in Japan, as an ornamental and timber tree it also has strong ties in formal Japanese Gardens. It is not surpring that is also very popular as a Bonsai too.


20 Pinus halepensis

Aleppo Pine

The Aleppo Pine is native to the Mediterranean region, growing from sea level to about 200 meter. It is closely related to the Canary Island Pines and Turkish Pine. Its resin is used for chewing and in curing Greek wine.


21 Pinus mugo

Mugo Pine, Swiss Mountain Pine

The Mugo pine is a cone-shaped conifer, with long mid-green needles that cover its branches. It is a hardy tree and takes well to pruning and hence make and ideal Bonsai as it is slow growing too. It has attractive attractive brown cones.


22 Pinus parviflora

Japanese White Pine

An evergreen tree growing to 65 feet at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone 4. It is in leaf all year, and the seeds ripen in October.


23 Pinus sylvestris

Scotts Pine

Everygreen conical to flat topped Pine, Native to the Europe, from Norway to Spain, and to parts of Asia, cold hardy to zone 2, growing to 20 meters. Ideal for Bonsai of medium to arge size, and extremely popular in Forest and Literati Styles as lower branches can die back quite readily.


24 Podocarpus macrophyllus

Buddhist Pine, Chinese Yew, Kasamiki, Japanese Yew

The Podocoarpus is from the Conifer group and has long oval leafs 5-15 cm long. It grows to 25 meters occasionally to 40 meters, produces Yew like Purple Fruit, and is distributed through Japan, China and Himalayan Asia. It is much revered tree in Japanese and Chinese temples and is a favourite Bonsai too. It is grown in the colder regions as an Indoor Bonsai.


25 Pseudolarix amabilis

Golden Larch

The Golden Larch has a strong Pyramidal Shape, which with it wide spreading branches and golden yellow spring and blue green summer leaves make it an attractive tree in any surrounding. It can grow to between 30-40 meters. It is especially pleasing as a Bonsai with it vibrant spring and autumn leaf colours and beautifully textured bark.


26 Pseudotsuga menziesii

Douglas Fir tree

The Douglas Fir is a Native of North America, growing along the length of the Rocky Mountain. In the UK it is grown as a timber tree in regions that are non-calcarious and moist. The trees can grow up to 60 meters tall with 120 cm trunks with the timber being brown red in colour. It was discovered by Archibald Menzies in 1792 but was only introduced to the UK in 1827 by David Douglas.


27 Sequoia sempervirens

Costal Redwood, Californian Redwood

Native to California the Costal Redwood is prized for its wood which is light weight, and resistance to decay. With fragrant scale like leaves this giant is an extremely quick grower. Fully hardy in Britain, though they may lose their leaves in cold winters, with seemingly no detrimental effect on the tree. It thrives in Britain in the cooler moister western parts of the country. It is a long lived species with many specimens reportedly over 1000 years old.


28 Sequoiadendron giganteum

Giant Sequoia, Wellingtonia, Sierra Redwood

This giant of Trees is an extremely quick grower an is reputted to be the biggest trees with some specimens weighing over 2000 tons. It is long lived with coarse but sented leaves, the trees loves a constantly moist soil. While it will tolerate virtually all extremes it will not survive a drought.


29 Taxus baccata

English Yew

Yew trees are native to Britain and particularly common in England and Wales, where they have been panted in many churchyards. These evergreen trees grow very slowly and live for many hundreds of years. Some old yew trees are believed to be over 2000 years old. Longbows were made from yew, and this durable wood has been used in turning wooden bowls and as a veneer by furniture makers.


30 Thuja occidentalis Rheingold

Rheingold Compacta American Arborvitae , Thuja Rheingold

A fantastically coloured slow growing dwarf evergreen conifer with a dense, conical to round growth habit. With sprays of yellow-green foliage become an intense shade of vibrant yellow in the summer, before taking on a bronze tinge in the winter. It has been loved by gardeners for over a hundred years.


31 Thuja orientalis Aurea Nana

Chinese Arboviate, Thuja Oriental Aurea Nana, Golden Oriental Arborvitae

A slow growing fantastically coloured dwarf evergreen conifer with a dense, conical growth habit. With yellow-green foliage that become intensly vibrant yellow in the summer, before taking on a bronze tinge in the winter.