Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce

Young Sitka Spruce along Daniels Main.
On our quad ride at the Head of Powell Lake, I noticed silver coloured evergreen trees mixed in with the more common cedars, firs, and hemlocks. After taking several pictures, I came home to look it up.

It turned out to be a Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis). The tell-tale sign was the sharp needles I felt when it rubbed my hand over a branch. Sitka Spruce grow along the coast from Northern California to Alaska. They are commonly found in low to middle elevations in moist to well drained soil. The ones I saw grew in disturbed soil bordering the logging roads, and in slashes that are starting to regrow. They are also found on river floodplains, headlands, and avalanche sites.

Sharp blue-green Sitka Spruce needles on a young tree.

The trees I saw were young and small, but at full growth they can reach 70 metres tall and 2 metres in diameter. The branches are long and drooping, covered with yellow-green to blue-green very sharp needles. It was the blue-green (almost silver) needles on the growth tips that caught my eye.

First Nations peoples used spruce trees as a source of food, medicine, and building material. The inner bark was eaten fresh or dried in cakes, and young shoots were high in Vitamin C. Pitch was chewed much like we do gum, and it was used medicinally for skin irritations, colds, sore throats, toothaches and other internal aliments. The roots were processed and split to weave hats and baskets.

Another young Sitka Spruce sporting blue-green needles.
One interesting fact is that the coastal Sitka Spruce can hybridize with the interior White Spruce when they come in contact. The resulting hybrid is called a Lutz Spruce (P. x lutzii) named after Harold John Lutz who discovered it in 1950. He wasn't a relative, but Lutz isn't a common surname in North America. -- Margy

References: Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Lone Pine Publishing, 1994) by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (It’s one of my favourite botanical guides.) and E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online).

26 comments:

  1. Interesting; thanx for sharing.

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  2. Great information with this pretty spruce!

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  3. Wonderful photos of the beautiful spruce tree! Great post for S

    Happy Week to you,
    artmusedog and carol

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  4. wonderful photo's... i love trees...although i know them rarely by name ;-)


    Have a nice abc-day/- week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc.-w-team)

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  5. Not seen for a long time... by the home of my childhood stud a Sitka spruce... that was over 40 years ago -

    Thanks for your visit and nice comment.
    I make my journals even only for myself or as personals gift for some people. The joy is to make them.
    Would be like see your journal pages -
    Greetings from Germany

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  6. Fascinating and beautiful!

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  7. We live in one of the most beautiful areas of the world! I'm thankful for all the beautiful evergreens as well as the ones that give our area such gorgeous colour every fall.

    Leslie
    abcw team

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    1. We do, don't we. My ABC Wednesday posts about Coastal BC plants have taught me a lot about my surroundings. - Margy

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  8. Very informative post! Great photos as well.

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  9. That is very interestig. I don't think Sitka Spruce grow here in the interior. The colouration is beautiful.

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    1. The nature guide says there are White Spruce in the interior, but I don't know which sections. - Margy

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  10. Beautiful Spruce trees. Makes me feel like Christmas is right around the corner.

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  11. nice trees; Christmas coming

    ROG, ABCW

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  12. Beautiful pictures & very informative

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  13. It's amazing how much information has become lost over time, thanks for telling us how important this tree can be: food, medicine, textiles, etc.

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    1. Some of my guides have facts about plant uses and warnings if they are poisonous. - Margy

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  14. Beautiful spruce trees!
    Have a great day!

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  15. They are so pretty - often used as Christmas trees for that reason as well.

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  16. That is very interesting Margy. We have Sitka Spruce here but I'm pretty sure it is not native and only used for planting forestry. Not sure why but it is attractive I agree.

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    1. Even though we have them here naturally, they are not planted as forestry stock after harvesting is done. Maybe they only grow in higher, rougher regions and aren't as prolific as our firs, hemlocks and cedars. - Margy

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  17. Pretty color and very informative. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. I don't think I have ever seen Sitka spruce trees but I know that some home-built airplanes are made with its lumber...or used to be, anyway.

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    1. The Kelley Spruce company had a milling operation in Powell River that processed spruce from Haida Gwaii to be used in the aircraft industry, including the manufacture of the de Haviland Mosquito. - Margy

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  19. Very informative! Sitka Spruce were abundant in Alaska but I knew little about them until now.

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  20. Interesting information. We have a lot of spruce trees over here in Scandinavia.

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  21. Thanks everyone for stopping by and commenting on my ABC post this week. I appreciate hearing from you. - Margy

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