5 year old boy standing in a grassy patch of sun, back to the camera, in a pine forest

A Poem for Identifying Ten North Idaho Conifers

It's always easier to remember facts when they rhyme

This month at our forest co-op, we asked our kids what they wanted to learn about. Mine wanted to learn about trees. So, we've been talking about the parts of trees, how they grow, what they eat, and how to identify native trees in our area.

I'm excited about knowing the trees and plants that live around us, and what they can be used for. Much of this knowledge is new to me, too. There's a lot to learn!

As it happens, it is far easier to remember a bunch of facts when they are in a song or poem. Below, you will find the verses I wrote to help us remember how to identify 10 of the most common conifers in our part of North Idaho. We're working on setting them to a tune, too!

frosty ponderosa pine needles and pine cone
Frosty Ponderosa.

Identifying Idaho Conifers

Pine needles bunch up
in fives, threes, and twos.
Sharp spruce needles spin,
Bark rough where they grew.

Flat fir needles flex,
Branches smooth and strong.
Conifers are all cone bearers!
It's time to sing along!

The pines are Ponderosa, Lodgepole, and Western White.
The firs are Grand, Subalpine, and Douglas, that is right!
Western red cedar and hemlock, Engelmann spruce and larch,
Ten conifers of Idaho, we'll find them as we march!

Ponderosa is a yellow pine:
Three needles make a Y.
Red puzzle piece-like bark,
Big egg-shaped cones up high.

Lodgepole is a red pine,
Its needles come in pairs.
With dark scaly gray bark,
Small egg-shaped cones to share.

Western white pine has rectangular bark,
Gray and smooth when first alive.
Its cones are long bananas.
Its needles come in fives.

The pines are Ponderosa, Lodgepole, and Western White.
The firs are Grand, Subalpine, and Douglas, that is right!
Western red cedar and hemlock, Engelmann spruce and larch,
Ten conifers of Idaho, we'll find them as we march!

Douglas fir, its cones hang down,
Three prongs on every scale.
Thin needles like a bottle brush,
Red buds will tell the tale.

Subalpine fir has needles curved up,
White lines on both their sides.
Its cones point up, its bark is gray,
These clues can be your guides.

Grand fir has cones pointing up,
Its bark is furrowed gray,
Needles with two white lines below
Grow in a flattened spray.

The pines are Ponderosa, Lodgepole, and Western White.
The firs are Grand, Subalpine, and Douglas, that is right!
Western red cedar and hemlock, Engelmann spruce and larch,
Ten conifers of Idaho, we'll find them as we march!

Western red cedar has flat scaly leaves,
Its bark is stringy red brown,
Tiny brown cones point up on top
Like rosebuds in a crown.

Western hemlock has miniature cones:
Tiny, scaled, and round.
Flat needles with white underneath
Lie flat in rows year round.

Englemann spruce has long thin cones;
Each cone has papery scales.
Its needles grow like a bottle brush,
Gray bark like fishes' maille.

Western larch is a deciduous tree:
Short needles turn yellow and drop.
On spurs they group in large bundles
From the trunk up to the top.

The pines are Ponderosa, Lodgepole, and Western White.
The firs are Grand, Subalpine, and Douglas, that is right!
Western red cedar and hemlock, Engelmann spruce and larch,
Ten conifers of Idaho, we'll find them as we march!

Creative Commons License
Identifying Idaho Conifers by Jacqueline Kory-Westlund is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.



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About

We're Jacqueline and Randy, a blogging duo with backgrounds in tech, robots, art, and writing, now raising our family in northern Idaho.

Our goal is to encourage deliberate choices, individual responsibility, and lifelong curiosity by sharing stories about our adventures in living, loving, and learning.

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Curious about our life and journey? Here are some good places to start reading:

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