Approximately 50 species of evergreen coniferous trees and shrubs from the northern hemisphere and some tropical mountains. They range from erect trees of good size to mat-forming shrubs. All have needle or awl-like leaves when young but in some species they become scale-likeat maturity. The male flowers are small ovoid catkins, the females like tiny cones. When mature the scales of the latter become more or less fleshy and fuse together to form a berry-like fruit.
Few if any of the wild species are suitable for the rock garden - unless it is a big one. Some of the dwarf slow-growing mutants however, make good specimen plants for rock and sink gardens and the alpine house. Most well drained soils are suitable and a sunny site is best though some shade is tolerated. Propagation by cuttings in a cold frame in late summer or autumn. Seed of the species should be sown as soon as possible but can take up to 1-2 years to germinate.