Evergreens of the Whitefish Chain

They're the trees that give us color all through the year- evergreens. And though they may all look the same at first glance, these trees are unique, interesting, and fun to identify. We've listed a few here to get you started for your next nature hike or walk in the woods.

White Pine

White pines are one of the most iconic trees on the Whitefish Chain, frequently growing 100 feet tall. These fluffy-looking trees can be partially identified by their long needles- but be careful, the red pine also grows tall, looks fluffy and has long needles. How to tell them apart? Here's one easy trick: the white pine has five needles in a cluster. You can remember this by remembering that there are five letters in the word "white" for "white pine."

White pines have five needles in a cluster- the same number of letters in the word "white."



Red Pine

Red pines are a staple of the northland, a native tree that grows tall and straight. The tree's long needles are 4-6 inches and grow in clusters of two. Note that a white pine's needles grow in clusters of five, which is how the two can be easily told apart.

White Spruce

Spruce trees, generally, can be identified by their four-sided needles, which are often relatively stiff and attached singly- not in groups as with red or white pines. On the white spruce, the needles grow from all sides of the twigs, but bend to the upward side toward the light. The cones on white pines are 2-3 inches long and soft and papery.

Close-up of spruce needles.

Fir trees also have short needles that grow singly, but the very common balsam fir is easily distinguished from spruce. That's because the needles grow on only two sides of the balsam twig, not all the way around. Balsam needles are also much darker and shiny in appearance.



Cedars are a beautiful tree with a feathery appearance from afar. Cedar is known for its strong fragrance- pick a small leaf and take a whiff! Up close, you'll notice that they have a shaggy bark that peels off in thin strips that seem shredded.  The bark isn't the only giveaway: these trees are easily identified because of their needles, which aren't smooth and straight the way that many pine needles are, but are flat and appear scaly. Cedar has been used to make tea and is high in vitamin c- but drinking too much of the tea can be toxic.

Jack Pine

Jack pines are one of the more unique pine trees of the area. they grow rather irregularly and often have a kind of ragged appearance. Jack pines have shorter needles, about an inch long, and have curved pine cones. The Michigan DNR explains that the cones are coated in a resin that prevents them from opening; however, the resin melts at 112 degrees, which means the tree often reproduces after a fire. But, as you can see in the photo below, the tree will also have some cones that open with or without a fire, so that they can reproduce whether fire occurs or not. 

As the fall comes to a close and the Whitefish Chain welcomes winter, the season of pine appreciation begins. Soon we'll be bringing the trees and their branches into our homes for decoration and that lovely pine smell. But while you're out in the woods, take a closer look at the beautiful evergreens.

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