Deciduous and Evergreen Trees

In Describing the Structure of Trees we look at the different parts of trees.In this science article we look at the differences between ‘evergreen’ and ‘deciduous’ trees.

Deciduous and evergreen trees-their shapes

This is a deciduous ash tree. The part of the tree with all the leaves is called the ‘crown’.

  • What do you notice about the shape of the crown?
Ash tree with leaves, twigs and boughs showing the crown of a tree

Click on image for slide show

Now look at this picture of evergreen trees. Look at their crowns.

  • What is different about the crowns of evergreen trees?

norfolk pine trees showing wide crown at bottom and narrow crown at top

Deciduous and evergreen trees-their leaves

A deciduous tree has leaves which come in many shapes and sizes.

Broad leaf shapes

The leaves of evergreen trees are often called ‘needles’.

  • Why are the leaves of evergreen trees called ‘needles’?

silver fir needles

 Deciduous trees-in Autumn

The leaves of ‘deciduous’ trees change color in the autumn. The leaves change color when the weather becomes colder.

  • What colors are the leaves changing to?

 Autumn Forest Colours showing yellow and orange leaves

  • What happens to the leaves after they change color?

autumn leaves falling from trees

By the start of winter all the leaves have dropped off the trees.

The leaves act like a blanket.The leaves keep the roots of the tree warm in winter.

different shades of leaf on forest floor

After the leaves fall to the ground they rot away.

The rotten leaves give extra food to the roots of the tree. This extra food keeps the tree healthy.

leaves fallen in autumn on English country lane

The leaves also give animals a place to hide…

A fall foliage hat for a woodfrog

…and hedgehogs somewhere to hibernate. This hedgehog is looking in the leaves for somewhere warm to sleep in winter.

hedgehog with leaf prepares to hibernate

She will remain asleep in her blanket of leaves between November and March.

hibernating hedgehog amongst Autumn leaves

Evergreen trees in autumn.

This is what evergreen trees look like in autumn.

Norfolk pine trees in fall

  • Compare evergreen trees in the autumn and deciduous trees in the autumn.

Deciduous trees-in winter

These are deciduous trees in winter.

deciduous trees in winter with no leaves at Langå, Denmark

Evergreen trees-in winter

These are evergreen trees in winter.

leylandii cyress evergreen trees in snow

Evergreen trees are shaped like up side down ice cream cones.ice cream cone upside down demonstrating how evergreen trees lose heavy snow in the winter

  • How do you think this cone shape helps trees when it snows a lot?

Deciduous trees-in spring

In spring you can see small leaves on deciduous trees. Small leaves become big leaves by the summer.

 deciduous forest in spring leaves starting to grow

In late spring many deciduous trees grow flowers.These are the flowers you see on a horse chest nut tree.

horsechest nut flowers blossom in spring

Now watch this video of how a deciduous tree changes through the seasons.

Evergreen trees-in spring

In spring evergreen trees look the same as they looked like in all other seasons… but if you look very closely you just might see some pine cones growing…

western white pine tree growing pine cones

Cones start to grow on pine trees in spring. Sometimes they stay on the tree for three years before they fall off.

 western white pine cones growing on tree

Pine cones come in many different shapes and sizes.

 cones growing on a Western Hemlock evergreen tree

  • Look at this painting. Can you see which trees are deciduous and which trees are evergreen? What time of year was it painted?

A view of catskill mountain house Thomas Cole 1845

Deciduous and evergreen trees-extension activities

  • Draw a deciduous tree in the autumn. Describe what happens.
  • Draw four pictures of oak trees. Draw one picture of an oak tree in the spring, one in the summer, one in the autumn and one in the winter. Describe any differences.
  • Draw a picure with evergreen and dedicuous trees. Remember the shapes of the different ‘crowns’.
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