White Spruce (Picea glauca)

White Spruce

The White Spruce (Picea glauca), also known as the "Canadian Spruce" or "Skunk Spruce," is a monoecious conifer and evergreen in the Pine Family (Pinaceae). The genus name is from the Latin for "pine" or, more specifically, "pine pitch." The species name is from the Greek for "grayish" or "bluish-gray." The lumber from this tree is primarily used for pulp and lumber. Younger White Spruce are cut and sold for Christmas Trees.

The White Spruce will grow in a pyramidal shape to a height of 40 to 100 feet (12 to 30 meters). The trunk diameter can be as large as two feet (0.6 meters). The bark is gray to brown and scaly as the tree matures. The twigs are pinkish-brown and hairless.

White Spruce Bark

The many tree limbs of the White Spruce grow from the trunk in a random pattern as shown in the photograph below. Therefore, the lumber from this tree will have many knots.

White Spruce Branches

The needles of the White Spruce are from ½ inch (1.27 centimeters) to ¾ inch (1.9 centimeters) long, the longest of the native spruces. The Norway Spruce (Picea abies) has longer needles but is not native. The White Spruce needles are blue-green, four-angled, sharp-pointed, inwardly curved and usually crowded on the upper part of the twig. There is a white, waxy layer on the needles that helps make the needles appear blue-green and give the spruce its name. The underside of each needle has whitish lines. Crushed needles will produce a piney, skunk-like odor peculiar to this spruce species.

White Spruce Needles

The spruce cone from a White Spruce shown in the photograph below is two inches (five centimeters) long. Cones from other spruces are shorter. White Spruce cones vary in size from one inch (2.5 centimeters) to 2½ inches (6 centimeters) long and are scattered among the upper branches. These cones are light brown, elongated, more open than other spruce cones and have fan-shaped scales. The seeds are brown, winged and small with 186,400 seeds to the pound.

White Spruce Cone

The root system is relatively deep.

Spruce seeds are favored by squirrels. These rodents will sit in a White Spruce, pick the ripe cones, remove and eat the seeds then throw the cones to the ground. Anything or anyone in the area of a White Spruce when squirrels are so active can become a target of falling cones. The large number of cones on a White Spruce and the failure of squirrels to consume all the seeds ensures the prolific propagation of White Spruces.


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