Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group

A Glimpse into the Exciting World of Watersheds on Prince Edward Island

What is a Hardwood? A Softwood?

Trees come in all shapes and sizes. There is an incredible diversity of trees around the world; there are 180 species of trees in Canada alone (and that doesn’t even include the other 5,000 plant species)! Trees can be broken down into two categories: hardwoods and softwoods. Let’s take a look.

Hardwood Trees…

spread out as they grow, and often have a more rounded shape than coniferous. Two of most prominent species include Red Oak and Sugar Maple.  Hardwoods are plants that drop their leaves for a part of the year, often during cold or dry weather.  This is done to save energy by not having to keep their leaves green and healthy; it is thanks to this that we see the brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, gold and brown during the autumn months!

Seeds from these trees are often protected by a nutshell or fruit, and are favoured by many species of animals throughout all different forest regions. As the name suggests, they are often harder than softwoods (but not always!).  Examples of hardwoods include yellow birch, maples or beech trees.

Hardwoods in Autumn

Hardwoods in Autumn

Did You Know? The Acadian forest can grow to be very old; some of the larger hardwood trees such as sugar maple, ash and yellow birch can grow up to 200 years old. Eastern hemlock is the oldest living species, and has been seen up to 800 years old!

Softwood Trees…

are cone-bearing plants with needles that stay on year-round (with the exception of Eastern Larch). Their needles actually stay on the tree for several years before falling off gradually. Softwoods grow faster, upwards, are less dense and heavy, and often have a triangular appearance. The seeds of conifers grow in cones, and when the cone opens up, the seeds fall out and spread. Coniferous trees are often used for building homes and furniture; they are also only found in the northern hemisphere!  Examples include spruce, pine and larch.

Softwood (white pine)
Softwood (white pine)

Forest Fact: Are coniferous trees the same thing as evergreens? Although most conifers ARE evergreens, there are some deciduous trees that are classified as evergreens; some species down south keep their leaves on all year-round!


EcoKids. (no date). Types of Trees. Retrieved from

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