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Jessi and Squeaks just spent the day hiking and sketching evergreen trees in their field journals! A lot of evergreen trees look pretty similar, but Jessi knows some fun ways to tell them apart. Join us to find out how!
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Jessi: Hi Guys! Squeaks and I are just getting back from a nature walk! In the fall, we like to collect leaves and figure out which tree they came from, but it’s winter here and the plants we’re looking at don’t lose their leaves. So we used our field journal to draw pictures of the evergreens we saw instead.

Evergreens are what we call plants that keep their leaves and stay green all year round. And the three evergreen trees we saw the most were fir, pine, and spruce.

They look a lot alike, but we were able to tell them apart by looking at their needles — the long, skinny leaves on their branches. You can also learn how to tell the difference between a pine tree, a fir tree, and a spruce tree too! You just need to know a little bit about their needles.

Let’s start with pine! The easiest way to tell if a tree is a pine tree is by looking at its twigs — the smallest part of its branches. Pay attention to the needles that grow out from the twig: is there just one needle growing from each spot, or are there little bunches of needles?

If you see a bunch of long needles growing out from the same spot, you’re probably looking at a pine tree! If you only see one needle growing out of each spot on the twig, then it’s not a pine tree — you’re looking at a fir tree or a spruce tree! But how do you tell the difference between a fir and a spruce?

Well, there’s something special about the needles on a fir: they’re flat — so flat that it’s hard to roll a fir needle between your fingers! But spruce needles don’t look flat — they’re more square-shaped, with four sides. And it’s pretty easy to roll a spruce needle between your fingers!

So, the main difference between these trees are that the needles on a pine tree grow in bunches, the needles on a fir tree are flat, and the needles on a spruce are kind of square-shaped. Okay, Squeaks, now that we know the difference between a pine, a fir, and a spruce, let’s see if we can tell the kinds of trees we saw on our walk by looking at your field drawings! Let’s play Guess That Evergreen!

Oooh, look at this one. The needles aren’t growing out from the twigs in bunches, so it’s not a pine. The next thing we can check is the shape of the needles.

They look flat to me.

[Squeak Squeak]

You too, Squeaks? Yes, I think you’re right. I think it’s a fir!

Yes! We’re right! Okay, let’s look at this second one.

This one looks a lot like the fir we just saw, with each needle growing from its own spot. But it’s hard to tell if they’re flat. Did you draw another picture of just the needles?

[Squeak Squeak]

Oh ok, let’s take a look at it from the side.

Oh! Those are definitely not flat needles. I think I can see four sides.

So, this must be a spruce! Yes! We got it!

Okay, last one. This one has long needles, but I can’t tell if they’re square or flat from this picture.

[Squeaks Squeak]

That’s right, Squeaks! Look, the long needles are growing in bunches.

This is a pine tree! We got them all right! How’d you guys do at home?

Next time you go for a nature walk, or even a walk around your neighborhood, pay attention to the leaves around you. Are they evergreens? Can you tell what kind?

Maybe even draw a picture of them! Thanks for learning about pine, fir, and spruce trees with us! If you want to share your field journal drawings with us, you can email us at

Thanks so much and we’ll see you next time!