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Deciduous Trees That Shed Needles in the Fall

By Brian Albert ; Updated September 21, 2017

Not all conifer (cone bearing) trees are evergreen. There are several species of conifers that are deciduous. Deciduous trees loose their leaves in the fall and go through a period of dormancy during the winter when it is too cold to grow. Dormancy conserves the tree's energy and prevents water loss through the needles in freezing temperatures and dry, winter air.

Bald Cypress

The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is native to the Southeastern United States. It is famous for large stands growing in the cypress swamps of the Gulf Coast, where often it is covered with Spanish moss. It's range is not limited to the humid warm climate of the South. It is a very adaptable and tolerant tree that is hardy to USDA Zone 5. It can tolerate standing water and dry conditions. When grown in very moist conditions, the bald cypress produces what are called "knees." They are conical-shaped growths arising from the roots surrounding the trunk that help keep the tree standing in unstable soil. The "knees" also transport air to the roots in oxygen deprived, water-logged soils. It grows to 100 feet tall in it's natural habitat, but usually grows to less than 70 feet in cultivation. The needles are light green, fine-textured and turn a red-brown color before dropping in autumn.

Eastern Larch

The eastern larch (Larix laricina) is a tree native to North America that grows in the northern United States all the way through Canada and to the Arctic Circle. It is hardy to USDA Zone 1. It is a short- to-medium-size tree that reaches 50 to 80 feet tall with a span of 20 to 30 feet. It grows slowly in a pyramid shape with weeping horizontal branches. The needles are three-sided, fine-textured and grow in clusters of 30 on spurs along the branches. They have a blue-green color that turns to yellow in the fall before they drop for the winter in a spectacular display of color. It does not hold up well to warm summers and is not used often in landscaping.

Dawn Redwood

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is native to China and is hardy to USDA Zone 4. It is a very fast grower and reaches heights of 75 to 100 feet. The fine, half-inch long needles are bright green and arranged flat on branchlets. It has persistent and deciduous stems. The deciduous stems fall with the needles in autumn. Deciduous stems are green and do not have buds, but they do have needles. The needles turn a pinkish-tan to red-bronze before they drop. The trunk is similar to other redwoods with shredded bark. It forms a conical tree with a well-buttressed trunk.