Characters.—Flowers monoecious or dioecious, naked. Males monandrous or monadelphous; each floret consisting of a single stamen, or of a few united, collected in a deciduous amentum; about a common rachis; anthers 2-lobed or many-lobed, bursting longitudinally; often terminated by a crest, which is an unconverted portion of the scale out of which each stamen is formed. Females in cones. Ovary spread open, and having the appearance of a flat scale destitute of style or stigma, and arising from the axil of a membranous bract. Ovule naked; in pairs or several, on the face of the ovary, inverted, and consisting of one or two membranes, open at the apex, together with a nucleus. Fruit consisting of a cone formed of the scale-shaped ovaries, become enlarged and indurated, and occasionally of the bracts also, which are sometimes obliterated, and sometimes extend beyond the scales in the form of a lobed appendage. Seed with a hard crustaceous integument. Embryo in the midst of fleshy, oily albumen, with 2 or many opposite cotyledons; the radicle next the apex of the seed, and having an organic connection with the albumen.—Trees or shrubs, with a branched trunk abounding in resin. Wood with a ligneous tissue marked with circular disks. Leaves linear, acerose or lanceolate, entire at the margins; sometimes fascicled in consequence of the non-development of the branch to which they belong; when fascicled, the primordial leaf to which they are then axillary is membranous, and enwraps them like a sheath. (Lindley.)
Properties.—Every part of coniferous plants contains an oleo-resinous juice, which, by distillation, is resolved into volatile oil and resin. The medicinal properties of this juice have been before noticed (see vol. i. pp. 254-256.