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Evergreen trees and shrubs rise in popularity through the winter, but these plants do more than just enhance the aesthetic of the winter landscape. Here’s info about these important winter plants.

Evergreens stay green

Many people think evergreens never lose their leaves or needles. In fact, evergreens constantly shed and re-grow leaves, unlike deciduous trees that shed all their leaves at once and have bare branches through a dry or cold season. Evergreens in northern areas have smaller, needle like leaves that protect the plant from extreme weather. Pines, hemlocks and hollies are evergreens native to the Northern Virginia area.

All in the leaves

Evergreens’ leaves are designed to conserve water, with a waxy coating that limits water loss during dry seasons. Needle-shaped leaves are actually just regular leaves tightly wrapped into the needle shape. This shape reduces the impact of winds on the tree by reducing the leaf’s surface area. The leaves of deciduous trees have higher surface areas, because they are larger and lack the waxy coating of evergreens, meaning they are not as good at conserving water. That’s why they lose their leaves in the fall. If deciduous trees didn’t lose their leaves each year, they wouldn’t survive the winter.

Important resources

Evergreen trees and shrubs provide important resources to wildlife, when resources are most scarce. Evergreens provide significant shelter to wildlife in harsh weather. Branches of these trees insulate wildlife from cold temperatures and act as a windbreak during strong wind storms. Most evergreens also produce nuts, seeds, buds or berries through early winter months, which provide important food sources when food is typically scarce.