|Sitka spruce at the|
About 30 species of spruce grow across the northern hemisphere, most notably in the cold arctic regions. Fossils of spruce date to 65 million years ago. The spruces are most closely related to the pines, but you would never guess this from looking at any spruce. Judging from the needles and cones, you would think that they’re not even in the same family. Three species of spruce are native to the Pacific Northwest:
spruce, Engelmann spruce, and Brewer
spruce. The most ancient species were two of our natives: Brewer spruce
spruce. Also, spruces originated in the Northwest. Millions of years before
humans discovered the Bering Land Bridge, spruces made a slow migration across
to reach Asia and Sitka Europe. It may seem odd to
think of trees migrating. They generally stay rooted in one spot. Yet even
though the trees themselves don’t travel, their winged seeds do. So each
generation can sprout a few hundred feet beyond the previous generation. It’s
easy to see that trees would be able to migrate thousands of miles in millions
Spruces can grow to 200 feet tall, given a chance.
spruce is the
largest species of spruce. The largest Sitka Sitka
spruce in Oregon is located at .
The largest Cape Meres Sitka spruces in the world are in Washington state, the Lake Quinault Spruce, growing on
the south shore of Lake Quinault, and the Queets Spruce, growing near
the in Olympic National Park. Queets River
|Spruce needles and cones|
|Twig with pegs where needles attached|
The Spruces are easy to identify. They have some distinguished and distinguishing features. First, consider the needles: They look like Douglas fir needles, radiating all around the twig, but they are pointed and sharp. Unlike Douglas fir and the true firs, each spruce needle grows on a small peg. In fact, these pegs are unique in the pine family, and remain even after a twig loses its needles. The cones have thin scales, with their bracts hidden safely inside on mature cones, again unlike Douglas fir, which has conspicuous three-pointed bracts poking out from each scale. The bark is gray and usually breaks into scales on large trees.
Spruce trees often develop galls. People often confuse these galls with cones, especially when there are no cones present on the tree. These galls are caused by the gall adelgid, a tiny insect that loves to eat the tender spruce needles after they burst from buds in the spring. The tree reacts by producing a gall on the twig tip.
The scientific name for spruce is Picea, which is derived from the Latin for "pitch."
Spruces dominate vast northern regions of the northern hemisphere including
The only other conifers that grow this far north are the larches. Farther south
in North America and Asia, spruces are confined to higher elevations in the
mountains, extending into Russia Mexico
in North America and to the Himalayas in Asia.
one exception to this attraction to cold extremes. It clings to the Sitka Pacific Coast
from California to , thriving where other trees avoid
windswept shorelines continuously peppered with salty ocean spray. Alaska
|Engelmann spruce bark|
Spruce wood is used for construction and making paper. The original Christmas tree was a Norway spruce. The most celebrated use of spruce is in the making of fine string instruments. It’s also used for piano sound boards. You might think of Howard Hughes’ famous Spruce Goose airplane as another use of spruce wood. The huge airplane was made of wood, but the wood used in the Spruce Goose was birch. No wonder Howard Hughes never liked that name. It’s also been called the Flying Lumberyard, but I doubt that he would have liked that any better. The Spruce Goose is now on display at the
Evergreen Aviation &
Space Museum in . McMinnville, Oregon
Conifers of the World, James Eckenwalder