|Young Sitka Spruce along Daniels Main.|
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.|
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).