Evergreen trees, usually with more-or-less whorled branches. Buds covered with imbricated scales. Shoots of two forms : long shoots with deciduous leaves, scale-like and woody at base, and short shoots arising from axils of the scale-like leaves and bearing fascicles of 2, 3 or 5 green, needle-like leaves, surrounded at base by scarious scales forming a sheath. Staminate cones axillary, clustered at base of young shoots, catkin-like, consisting of spirally arranged scales each with 2 pollen sacs. Pollen grains with 2 air sacs. Ovulate cones lateral or subterminal in the upper part of the branches, maturing mostly in the third year; ovuliferous scales spirally arranged, persistent, leathery or woody, with enlarged apex (apophysis), mostly bearing a dorsal or terminal protuberance (umbo); bracts distinct, very small. Seeds usually winged; cotyledons 4-15.