There’s a bit of confusion here that’s a left over from the systems we have developed to label and classify plants throughout history. When is a conifer not a pine? The Romans considered all types of conifers which had needle-like foliage, pines, spruces. firs, etc, as pines. Even Linnaeus, in his famous 1753 Species Plantarum, the first to describe plants in modern binomial scientific terms, did not differentiate the genus Pinus from spruces, firs, hemlocks and larches. Then people started to get much more picky and to drill down into the differences: Phillip Miller described the genera Abies as Firs,
Abies koreana Image:http://conifersociety.org/conifers/conifer/abies/koreana/
and Larix as Larches.
While Elie-Abel Carriere, described the genera Tsuga s Hemlocks,
and Pseudotsuga she called Douglas Firs.
Whatever your views on the correct definition of a pinetum there’s no argument that the coming months are a great time to visit them.
I have recently been introduced to the one at Goudhurst in Kent – the Bedgebury Pinetum. It is a really lovely place for a gentle but invigorating walk but what I didn’t know until looking at their website is that it is the most important single site for conifer conservation in the world.
Of course we’ll all soon be thinking about which pine or conifer or fir we’ll be giving a home to this Christmas. When you check out yours think of the magnificent trees they can grow up to be and perhaps get a moment to walk in a pinetum.