Spruce Trees: What Should You Know?

Spruce trees are very common across the Northern Hemisphere and, unlike many other species, grow closer to the equator. Overall, the spruce is a tall tree and smaller forms are used as Christmas trees around the world. The needles of the spruce are not soft like so many other pine trees. Spruce sport stiff, quadrangle needles. The oldest living tree in the world is a Norway spruce living in western Sweden. The spruce is a coniferous evergreen. However, it sheds its needles every five to ten years. Accordingly, the growth rate of the spruce is slow.

The seedling is sensitive to its growing conditions and has a high chance of death. Extra care needs to be taken with your sapling for the first spring, growing season, and winter. Generally speaking, the lumber from spruce is a staple of building supplies. Spruce is the primary wood used for paper products. Finally, the spruce is a staple of many societies, from building supplies to Christmas trees.

So How Many Kinds of Spruce Trees are There?

Analyzing the DNA of the tree is the best way to identify spruce trees from other trees. Scientists changed how spruce were categorized. In the long run, there are 35 species of spruce. Spruces are in the Picea genus. Also, the family is the Pinaceae family. Due to the widespread growth of spruce, the common names used for them vary widely and are based on location. Scientists split spruce species into three clades. The first clade comprises spruce that grow in the mountainous regions of North America. The second clade lives in the mountainous areas of Asia and is sparsely found in Mexico. Finally, the third clade is more widespread growing in Europe, Asia, and North America, primarily in mountainous areas.

How Large Do Spruce Trees Grow?

With 35 species, the expected height of the spruce ranges. All things considered; spruce are tall evergreens. They commonly grow to 60 to 200 feet. The spread of the spruce also varies widely. Many spruces grow to 20 feet in width. According to HomeGuides, the spruce tree is slow growing, but once closer to maturity it can grow a foot to two feet a year. The Sitka spruce is an exception to this growth rate. In fact, the Sitka spruce grows almost five feet a year with an overall height of 220 feet.

What Does a Spruce Tree Look Like?

Spruce holds the traditional conical shape of pine trees. The most identifiable feature of a spruce is its needles with boast four sides. Also, the needles are incredibly sharp. This sharpness makes them less favorable as Christmas trees, but they hold their shape beautifully.

Spruce Tree Cones

Notably, the cones of the spruce are covered in scales. The cones are generally large and soft. All in all, the spruce tree is a bushy tree with thick branches with a dense growth of needles. The needles are often a dark green with the Colorado blue spruce featuring needles with a bluish tint. This tint adds a unique and beautiful twist on the spruce.

Where Can I Find a Spruce Tree?

At the present time, spruce thrive in mountainous areas and forests of pine trees. Location mostly divides the three clades of spruce. According to treehugger, the most found spruces in Northern America are the red spruce and the blue spruce. Clade I grow in Northern and Western North America. Clade II habitats Asia and small parts of Mexico. Though the species found in Mexico are sparse and endangered. Finally, Clade III covers a much larger geographical area. Areas of Europe, Asia, and North America all claim naturally growing spruce. The most popular spruce grown for Christmas trees is also the most widely growing spruce tree in Europe. The Norway spruce can be found globally but dominates its native lands.

How Long Can a Spruce Tree Live?

The lifespan of spruce varies widely, dependent on if it is growing in a natural environment or used as landscaping. On average, using a spruce in landscaping cuts its lifespan in half, which still amounts to 50 to 75 years. In contrast, the spruce thrives in its natural habitat. In North America, the average lifespan in the wild is closer to 200 years. Because we desire the spruce as Christmas trees, it can take 15 years from a seedling for the tree to be ready for its debut. Moreover, the spruces that grow in Europe can see lifespans of 300 to 400 years. Sweden claims the oldest tree in the entire world regardless of species.

Can I Grow a Spruce Tree?

Spruce seedlings are delicate, though growing them is easy. You will need to keep the spruce seedling protected from the elements, insects, and fungus. Keeping them protected from harsh conditions is vital during the first year of life. You can plant a seedling in its permanent site when it is close to a foot in height. Altogether, it will need plenty of space to grow in height and spread. Once your seedling survives its first year, it will need significantly less care. However, the seedling will mature slowly. You will probably see the spruce reach its maturity in your lifetime. Tree farmers often plant spruces because we highly desire them as Christmas trees because of their beauty. This slow-growing beauty does not come without a price tag. In fact, the spruce are the most expensive species to purchase for Christmas trees.

It is Time to BRANCH out into some fun tree facts!

  • The oldest tree in the world, a Norway spruce, lives in western Sweden and is estimated to be 9,550 years old.
  • The fossil record shows evidence of spruces in the Early Cretaceous period.
  • The Wright brothers used spruce wood to construct their first aircraft.

What Are Some Uses for Spruce Trees?

Natural Uses

Spruce are one of the most often selected trees for landscaping. The variation of needle color and thick, bushy shape makes them beautiful additions to any garden or backyard. Similar to other trees, many cultures use the spruce tree for medicinal purposes. The pitch of spruce can treat skin injuries like wounds and scratches. Also, the pitch shows pain relieving qualities for head and back aches. To treat hives and rashes, you can boil the needles and apply them topically. Alternatively, teas can be brewed from the needles and consumed. Additionally, many find this tea to ease urinary issues and purification of the blood.

Artistic Uses

We often select the spruce to add beauty to a landscape. Also, artists use spruce in landscape art because of the unique coloring of the needles. The spruce holds the perfect Christmas tree shape. Therefore, it is highly sought after to celebrate the season. Aside from the species used as Christmas trees, the other popular species is the Sitka spruce. The Sitka spruce is sacred in many cultures and known for its renowned beauty and quick growth.

Residential/Commercial Uses

We consider the wood from the spruce to be a white wood. Along with fir and pine, it is one of the most commonly used types of woods for building. Spruce wood has applications that are more delicate in application like the building of pianos, violins, boats, and planes. Also, it has applications that are cruder. Builders use spruce timber for beams, joists, and siding. Spruce wood is very durable and hardy. The timber is light in color and lightweight. Because of the incredibly fast growth rate of the Sitka spruce, we harvest a significant amount of timber from Sitka spruces and dispersed globally. Although the coloring and applications are like pine, we hold spruce to a high standard. Spruce timber is straighter and less prone to warping. 

Wrap Up

You will find the spruce growing across the Northern Hemisphere. There are even a few endangered species that live in Mexico. In general, spruce grow slowly. This excludes the Sitka spruce that grows almost five feet a year. Scientists classify spruce species into three different clades, primarily dividing by location of native habitat. Spruce can grow to 200 feet in height and live for close to 200 years. As shown above, the oldest tree (not just the oldest spruce) grows in Sweden and scientists estimate it to be 9,550 years old. While some species of spruce make the endangered list, this Norway spruce is thriving and will probably outlive us all.

Overall, the spruce is easy to grow and will make a unique addition to your landscape. For the most part, the life expectancy of a spruce is much shorter in urban and landscaping applications. If you are looking to add an interesting color to your garden, the spruce is a hardy tree. Furthermore, we use the timber from spruce all throughout our lives, from medicine to building applications.

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