Picea glauca (Moench) Voss
White spruce is a medium-sized conifer found in northeastern United States
and throughout Canada. It is the state tree of South Dakota. White spruce has a
cone-shaped crown, and when grown in the open develops a conical crown which
extends nearly to the ground. This habit along with the spreading branches give
it a nice appearance for use as an ornamental. Trees often reach 80-140 feet in
height and 1.5 to 3 feet in diameter. The oldest white spruce may reach 300
years of age.
Leaves (needles) are needle-shaped, and are often somewhat crowded on the
upper half of the branchlets. Needles are usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, blunt at
the tip and green to bluish-green in color. Typically, needles are 4 angled
(4-sided) and are present on short twig-like structures on the stem (sterigmata).
When crushed, needles have a disagreeable odor, thus, the common name of
"skunk spruce" or "cat spruce" is often used by those
familiar with the species. The bark is thin, light grayish-brown and is produced
in irregular, thin, scaly plates.
The species is monecious, meaning both male and female flowers (strobili) are
found on the same tree. Pollination occurs in the spring and cones mature in one
season. Cones are slender about 1 1/4 to 2 inches long and ripen in early fall.
Cones are pale brown at maturity with scales that are thin, flexible, and
rounded. Cones usually fall from the tree shortly after seeds are shed.
White spruce is tolerant of a considerable amount of shade. Its best growth
is on moist, acidic, loamy soils and is often found on stream banks, lake shores
and adjacent slopes. The species seldom occurs in pure stands but grows in
association with balsam fir, black spruce, eastern hemlock, trembling aspen, and
other northern hardwoods.
Leaves of white spruce are often infected by rust diseases resulting in
premature shedding of needles. The two most important insect pests are spruce
budworm and spruce sawfly.
As a Christmas tree, white spruce has excellent foliage color, short stiff
needles and a good natural shape. Needle retention is better than some of other
White spruce has one of the largest ranges of any North American conifer. It
can be found from Newfoundland to Alaska and southward to the United States in
New England and the Lake States. It occurs from sea level to 5600 ft. in
elevation. A taxonomic variety of white spruce, densata, can be found
in the Black Hills of South Dakota and is often sold commercially as "Black
Hills spruce". The variety albertiana is sold as "western
white spruce" or "Alberta white spruce", although some experts
believe it may be a form of densata. A total of over 30 cultivated
varieties of white spruce have been identified.
Most propagation is by seed, although both rooting and grafting has been
successful. Vegetative propagation by rooting or grafting has been used to
increase the number of plants of rarer forms.
The wood of white spruce is light, soft, and straight grained. Its primary
uses have been for pulpwood, lumber, furniture, and boxes and crates. More
elegant uses include sounding boards for pianos and violins. The tough, pliable
roots were once used by Indians to lace birchbark canoes and to make woven
White spruce is important as a source of food for grouse and seed eating
birds. Red squirrels often cut cones as they mature and eat the seeds.
Porcupines are considered destructive pests as they often eat the bark,
particularly of young trees. Black bears may also strip white spruce bark for
the sweet sapwood.
Prepared by Dr. Craig R. McKinley, North Carolina State University
White Spruce Trees from our nursery
Digging White Spruce Trees for transplanting
White Spruce 6 to 7 feet
White and Blue Spruce