Domain Eucarya or Superkindgom Eukaryota
Kingdom Plantae
Division Coniferophyta aka Pinophyta
(Class Pinopsida)

A widespread division of the plant kingdom, containing about 600 species in 68 genera, 7 or 8 families and 3 orders. Conifers are the familiar evergreen plants which can be found everywhere in the world except sub-Saharan West Africa. Conifers, like other vascular plants, are dominated by their sporophyte generation: The gametophytes consist entirely of pollen (male) and ovules (female) which develop in woody strobiles called 'cones'. Pollen is dispersed via the wind, or by animals, reaching a female cone where the ovules are fertilized. The zygotes develope into 'seeds' which are released from the cones as they dry out (in some conifers, special conditions such as forest fires are required for the cones to open).

Conifers developed in the late Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) Period, and survived the Permian-Triassic mass exctinction to become a significant component of the Earth's vegetation during the Mesozoic. As flowering plants (Magnoliophyta) began to spread during the Cretaceous and into the Cenozoic, conifers were pushed into environments that were too harsh for flowering plants: arctic and subarctic conditions, harsh soils, high alpine conditions. Of course, these may be the very environments the Cycadophyta and Bennettitophyta pushed conifers into during the Mesozoic Era.

Order Cordaitales existed from the late Carboniferous through the Permian Period and appears to contain the common ancestor of all other conifers.

Order Pinales:

Order Podocarpales:

Order Taxales:

The Gymnosperm Database, Edited by Christopher J. Earle or