Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Picea sitchensis - Sitka Spruce

Family: Pinaceae - Pine [E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information

"A shade-intolerant, submontane to montane, Pacific North American evergreen conifer. Occurs in hypermaritime to maritime cool mesothermal climates on nitrogen-rich soils. Avoids moisture-deficient and nutrient-deficient soils. Its occurrence increases with increasing latitude and precipitation and decreases with increasing elevation and continentality. Forms pure, open-canopy stands along the outer coast on sites affected by ocean spray and brackish water, and in advanced stages of primary succession on floodplains. Usually associated with black cottonwood, western hemlock, or western redcedar. Most productive on fresh and moist, nutrient-very rich soils within very wet cool mesothermal climates. Characteristic of hypermaritime mesothermal forests." [IPBC-E-flora]

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Sitka spruce was widely employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it especially for its antiseptic and pectoral qualities in the treatment of lung complaints, wounds, sores etc[257]. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism." [PFAF]

First Nations Usage:

"An extract from spruce buds was taken for coughs and colds (Willey, 1969)."[Turner&Bell]

"The tips of spruce branches were sacred to the Kwakiutl. They were used to make the beds and houses of shamans and initiates (Boas, 1966). They were rubbed on canoes to purify them, and to cleanse a person contaminated with menstrual blood 1~ (Boas, 1935). Spruce branches placed around the house of a sick person were thought to prevent anything unclean from entering the house; the sharp needles would drive it away {Boas, 1966)." [Turner&Bell]

"The strong pliable roots were extremely valuable on the west coast for making hats, baskets, and ropes, and for "sewing" wood as in box-making (Boas, 1935; Drucker, 1951; Densmore, 1939). Spruce gum, where found, was used for chewing, for cementing tools such as harpoons, and for a number of medicinal purposes (Gunther, 1945; Drucker, 1951)."[Turner&Bell]

"Straight young trees were traditionally used as splits for roasting salmon because they are neutral in flavor. Straight sticks of appropriate length were split part way, then salmon (or other fish) split and held open with smaller sticks were inserted in the split which was then tied closed with thong or strips of kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana (Mertens) Postels & Ruprecht. One sharpened end of the split was then thrust in the ground in order to position the fish for proper roasting over the cooking fire." [Norton KaigHada]

Spruce was also used as firewood both for its heating properties and because the smoke did not adversely flavor drying foods. The gum was chewed for pleasure and because it was thought to whiten the teeth." [Norton KaigHada]


Cultivation & Propagation

"NOTES: Sitka Spruce is a record-setter: the world's largest and tallest spruce (recorded at 317' tall, diameter to 181/2'); one of the largest of all trees; and among the fastest-growers, able to reach 200' in 100 years. Seedlings of this tree often sprout on top offallen trees called nurse logs; eventually the nurse log rots away, leaving a hollow beneath the Sitka Spruce, which perches on stiltlike roots. Old trees are sometimes topped with multiple crown leaders if lightning or wind has shattered the original one." [nwfgtrees]

Pice and Spruce Adelgids

"This very small family consists of small, aphidlike insects. The wingless females and nymphs are often covered with a cottony, waxy coating. They are confined to conifers. feeding on twigs or needles or inside the galls they form. Most species alternate between two different species of conifers but form galls only on the primary host tree. .... Adelgids have spread worldwide as forest and ornamental plant pests." [Haggard IOTP]

Fungal Host Sp.

Hypogymnia heterophylla - "Range: BC to Cal, seldom more than a few km inland from the ocean. Substrate: Bark and wood, most often collected from Pinus contorta or Picea sitchensis, but occurring on hardwoods as well. ... In its typical form, H. heterophylla is readily identified in the field once the slim perpendicular side lobes are recognized. Specimens with few such side lobes will require a P test to separate them from H. inactiva (which is P-). H. imshaugiii is another common species with erect lobes, but it has white lobe interiors and is not usually found near the coast. " [McCune Macrolichens]

Picea Sp. - Pine

"34 species: northern hemisphere. Etymology: (Latin: pitch) Note: Trunks, especially of Picea sitchensis, more flared or buttressed at base than other California conifers." [Jepson]


Page last modified on Sunday, March 13, 2022 3:42 AM