Picea rubens

Botanical Name : Picea rubens
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Picea
Species: P. rubens
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales

Synonyms : Picea rubra. (DuRoi.)Link.

Common Names: Red spruce (This species is also known as yellow spruce, West Virginia spruce, eastern spruce as well as he-balsam)

Habitat : Picea rubens is native to eastern North America, ranging from eastern Quebec to Nova Scotia, and from New England south in the Adirondack Mountains and Appalachians to western North Carolina. It grows at or near sea level in the northern part of its range, where it grows in swamps, along bogs or on well-drained slopes. In the south it is found in mountain ranges, usually in thin soils.

Red spruce is a perennial, shade-tolerant, late successional coniferous tree which under optimal conditions grows to 18–40 metres (59–131 ft) tall with a trunk diameter of about 60 centimetres (24 in), though exceptional specimens can reach 46 m (151 ft) tall and 100 cm (39 in) diameter. It has a narrow conical crown. The leaves are needle-like, yellow-green, 12–15 millimetres (0.47–0.59 in) long, four-sided, curved, with a sharp point, and extend from all sides of the twig. The bark is gray-brown on the surface and red-brown on the inside, thin, and scaly. The wood is light, soft, has narrow rings, and has a slight red tinge. The cones are cylindrical, 3–5 centimetres (1.2–2.0 in) long, with a glossy red-brown color and stiff scales. The cones hang down from branches.


Bloom Color is Red. Main Bloom Time is Late spring, Mid spring and the form is Pyramidal.

It is in leaf 12-Jan, and the seeds ripen from Ot to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.

It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure. It cannot tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Likes abundant moisture at the roots, if grown in drier areas it must be given a deep moist soil. Tolerates poor peaty soils. Succeeds in wet cold and shallow soils but is not very wind-firm in shallow soils. Resists wind exposure to some degree. A shallow-rooted tree, in the wild it is often blown down by strong winds. Prefers a pH between 4 to 6. Dislikes shade. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution. This species has been planted experimentally as a timber crop in N. Europe. It is slow to get started, but can then grow fairly rapidly when established though it soon slows down and seems to be fairly short-lived in cultivation, around 100 years is probably the limit. Wild trees live about 300 – 400 years. In some upland areas, especially over granitic or other base-poor soils, growth rate and health have been seriously affected by aluminium poisoning induced by acid rain. Seed production commences when the tree is about 15 years old, though reliable crops are not produced for another 5 – 10 years. Heavy crops occur every 4 – 6 years. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus. Closely related to and hybridizes in the wild with P. mariana. It is believed by some botanists to be a hybrid between P. mariana and P. glauca. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance. The crushed leaves are redolent of apples or camphor. Special Features: North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

Seed – stratification will probably improve germination so sow fresh seed in the autumn in a cold frame if possible. Sow stored seed as early in the year as possible in a cold frame. A position in light shade is probably best. Seed should not be allowed to dry out and should be stored in a cool place. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter. They can be planted out into their permanent positions in early summer of the following year, or be placed in an outdoor nursery bed for a year or so to increase in size. They might need protection from spring frosts. Cuttings of semi-ripe terminal shoots, 5 – 8cm long, August in a frame. Protect from frost. Forms roots in the spring. Cuttings of mature terminal shoots, 5 – 10cm long, September/October in a cold frame. Takes 12 months. Cuttings of soft to semi-ripe wood, early summer in a frame. Slow but sure.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Flowers; Inner bark; Leaves; Seed.

Young shoots. An emergency food, used when all else fails. Young male catkins – raw or cooked. Used as a flavouring. Immature female cones – cooked. The central portion, when roasted, is sweet and syrupy. The cones are 3 – 5cm in diameter. Inner bark – dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereals when making bread. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails. Seed – raw. The seed is about 2 – 4mm long and is too small and fiddly to be worthwhile unless you are desperate. A refreshing tea, rich in vitamin C, can be made from the young shoot tips. A gum is exuded from the tree as a result of injury to the sapwood. It is used for chewing. The sap can be used to make spruce gum. Leafy red spruce twigs are boiled as a part of making spruce beer. Also it can be made into spruce pudding.
Medicinal Uses:
A tea made from the boughs has been used in the treatment of colds and to ‘break out’ measles. The pitch from the trunk has been used as a poultice on rheumatic joints, the chest and the stomach in order to relieve congestion and pain. A decoction of the bark has been used in the treatment of lung complaints and throat problems.

Other Uses:
The bark has been used to make baskets. Pitch can be obtained from the trunk. The roots have been used to make thread for sewing baskets, canoe skins etc. Wood – straight-grained, soft, light, not strong. It weighs 28lb per cubic foot. Used for boxes, sash frames etc. It is also valued for its use in the pulp industry to make paper and is commonly used to produce stringed musical instruments.

Landscape Uses:Screen, Specimen. Red spruce is also used for Christmas trees. It can also be used as construction lumber and is good for millwork and for crates. Red spruce is the provincial tree of Nova Scotia.

Known Hazards : The sawdust, the resin from the trunk and even the needles can cause dermatitis in some people.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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