“Conifer” refers to any plant that produces cones. Some conifers, like pine trees, have easily recognizable cones. Others, like the Pacific Yew, have a fleshy cone that looks like fruit and yet others, like juniper trees, have cones that look like berries. The word conifer is a compound of the Latin words for “cone” (conus) and “to bear” (ferre) and directly translates as: “the one that bears cones.”
Most conifers have needles for leaves, but not all conifers keep their needles year-round. For example, the bald cypress which grows in southeastern swamps loses its needles each winter and tamarack or larch trees have needles that turn a golden yellow in the autumn before dropping to the ground.
Conifer trees like pinyon pine, juniper, and mesquite have always been present on sagebrush and grassland landscapes but have been expanding into areas where they didn’t historically grow over the last 150 years.