The NLRs or NBS-LRRs (nucleotide-binding, leucine-rich-repeat) form the largest resistance gene family in plants, with lineage-specific contingents of TNL, CNL and RNL subfamilies and a central role in resilience to stress. The origin, evolution and distribution of NLR sequences has been unclear owing in part to the variable size and diversity of the RNL subfamily and a lack of data in Gymnosperms. We developed, searched and annotated transcriptomes assemblies of seven conifers and identified a resource of 3816 expressed NLR sequences. Our analyses encompassed sequences data spanning the major groups of land plants and determinations of NLR transcripts levels in response to drought in white spruce. We showed that conifers have among the most diverse and numerous RNLs in tested land plants. We report an evolutionary swap in the formation of RNLs, which emerged from the fusion of an RPW8 domain to a NB-ARC domain of CNL. We uncovered a quantitative relationship between RNLs and TNLs across all land plants investigated, with an average ratio of 1:10. The conifer RNL repertoire harbours four distinct groups, with two that differ from Angiosperms, one of which contained several upregulated sequences in response to drought while the majority of responsive NLRs are downregulated.