In botany, an evergreen is a plant which has foliage that remains green and functional through more than one growing season. This also pertains to plants that retain their foliage only in warm climates, and contrasts with
deciduous In the fields of horticulture and Botany, the term ''deciduous'' () means "falling off at maturity" and "tending to fall off", in reference to trees and shrubs that seasonally shed leaves, usually in the autumn; to the shedding of petals, ...
plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.

Evergreen species

There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs. Evergreens include: *Most species of conifers (e.g., pine, hemlock,
blue spruce The blue spruce (''Picea pungens''), also commonly known as green spruce, Colorado spruce, or Colorado blue spruce, is a species of spruce tree. It is native to North America, and is found in USDA growing zones 1 through 7. It is found naturall ...
, and red cedar), but not all (e.g.,
larch Larches are deciduous conifers in the genus ''Larix'', of the family Pinaceae (subfamily Laricoideae). Growing from tall, they are native to much of the cooler temperate northern hemisphere, on lowlands in the north and high on mountains fur ...
) *
Live oak Live oak or evergreen oak is any of a number of oaks in several different sections of the genus ''Quercus'' that share the characteristic of evergreen foliage. These oaks are not more closely related to each other than they are to other oaks. ...
holly ''Ilex'' (), or holly, is a genus of over 570 species of flowering plants in the family Aquifoliaceae, and the only living genus in that family. ''Ilex'' has the most species of any woody dioecious angiosperm genus. The species are evergreen o ...
, and "ancient" gymnosperms such as cycads *Most angiosperms from frost-free climates, and rainforest trees *All
Eucalypt Eucalypt is a descriptive name for woody plants with capsule fruiting bodies belonging to seven closely related genera (of the tribe Eucalypteae) found across Australasia: ''Eucalyptus'', ''Corymbia'', ''Angophora'', '' Stockwellia'', ''Allosyn ...
s * Clubmosses and relatives * Bamboos The Latin binomial term , meaning "always green", refers to the evergreen nature of the plant, for instance :'' Cupressus sempervirens'' (a cypress) :''
Lonicera sempervirens ''Lonicera sempervirens'' (commonly known as coral honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle, or scarlet honeysuckle) is a species of honeysuckle vine native to the eastern United States which is known for its reddish flowers. Description ''Lonicera semp ...
'' (a honeysuckle) :''
Sequoia sempervirens ''Sequoia sempervirens'' ()''Sunset Western Garden Book,'' 1995:606–607 is the sole living species of the genus '' Sequoia'' in the cypress family Cupressaceae (formerly treated in Taxodiaceae). Common names include coast redwood, coastal ...
'' (a sequoia) Leaf longevity in evergreen plants varies from a few months to several decades (over thirty years in the Great Basin bristlecone pine).

Evergreen families

Japanese umbrella pine is unique in that it has its own family of which it is the only species.

Differences between evergreen and deciduous species

Evergreen and deciduous species vary in a range of morphological and physiological characters. Generally, broad-leaved evergreen species have thicker leaves than deciduous species, with a larger volume of parenchyma and air spaces per unit leaf area. They have larger leaf biomass per unit leaf area, and hence a lower specific leaf area. Construction costs do not differ between the groups. Evergreens have generally a larger fraction of total plant biomass present as leaves (LMF), but they often have a lower rate of photosynthesis.

Reasons for being evergreen or deciduous

Deciduous trees shed their leaves usually as an adaptation to a cold or dry/wet season. Evergreen trees also lose leaves, but each tree loses its leaves gradually and not all at once. Most
tropical rainforest Tropical rainforests are rainforests that occur in areas of tropical rainforest climate in which there is no dry season – all months have an average precipitation of at least 60 mm – and may also be referred to as ''lowland equa ...
plants are considered to be evergreens, replacing their leaves gradually throughout the year as the leaves age and fall, whereas species growing in seasonally arid climates may be either evergreen or deciduous. Most warm temperate climate plants are also evergreen. In cool temperate climates, fewer plants are evergreen. In this climate, there is a predominance of conifers because few evergreen broadleaf plants can tolerate severe cold below about . In areas where there is a reason for being deciduous, e.g. a cold season or dry season, evergreen plants are usually an adaptation of low nutrient levels. Additionally, they usually have hard leaves and have an excellent water economy due to scarce resources in the area in which they reside. The excellent water economy within the evergreen species is due to high abundance when compared to deciduous species. Whereas deciduous trees lose nutrients whenever they lose their leaves. In warmer areas, species such as some pines and
cypresses Cypress is a common name for various coniferous trees or shrubs of northern temperate regions that belong to the family Cupressaceae. The word ''cypress'' is derived from Old French ''cipres'', which was imported from Latin ''cypressus'', the la ...
grow on poor soils and disturbed ground. In '' Rhododendron'', a genus with many broadleaf evergreens, several species grow in mature forests but are usually found on highly acidic soil where the nutrients are less available to plants. In taiga or
boreal forest Taiga (; rus, тайга́, p=tɐjˈɡa; relates to Mongolic and Turkic languages), generally referred to in North America as a boreal forest or snow forest, is a biome characterized by coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, spruc ...
s, it is too cold for the organic matter in the soil to decay rapidly, so the nutrients in the soil are less easily available to plants, thus favoring evergreens. In temperate climates, evergreens can reinforce their own survival; evergreen leaf and needle litter has a higher carbon-nitrogen ratio than deciduous leaf litter, contributing to a higher soil acidity and lower soil nitrogen content. This is the case with Mediterranean evergreen seedlings, which have unique C and N storages that allow stored resources to determine fast growth within the species, limiting competition and bolstering survival. These conditions favor the growth of more evergreens and make it more difficult for deciduous plants to persist. In addition, the shelter provided by existing evergreen plants can make it easier for younger evergreen plants to survive cold and/or drought.Sobrado, M. A. (1991) "Cost-Benefit Relationships in Deciduous and Evergreen Leaves of Tropical Dry Forest Species". ''Functional Ecology'' 5 (5): 608–616.

See also

Semi-deciduous Semi-deciduous or semi-evergreen is a botanical term which refers to plants that lose their foliage for a very short period, when old leaves fall off and new foliage growth is starting. This phenomenon occurs in tropical and sub-tropical woody spe ...


External links

*{{Cite Americana, wstitle=Evergreens, author=Helen Ingersoll , short=x Plants Botany Trees