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Botanical Name: Picea mariana
Species: P. mariana
Synonyms: P. nigra. Abies mariana. Pinus nigra.
Common Names: Black Spruce, Swamp Spruce
Habitat :Picea mariana is native to Northern N. America – Alaska to Newfoundland and south to British Columbia and W. Virginia. It grows on the cool slopes and bogs. Found on well-drained soils in the north of its range and swamps in the south.Found on a variety of soil types, it grows best in those that are moist and acidic.
Picea mariana is a slow-growing, small upright evergreen coniferous tree (rarely a shrub), having a straight trunk with little taper, a scruffy habit, and a narrow, pointed crown of short, compact, drooping branches with upturned tips. Through much of its range it averages 5–15 m (15–50 ft) tall with a trunk 15–50 cm (6–20 in) diameter at maturity, though occasional specimens can reach 30 m (98 ft) tall and 60 cm (24 in) diameter. The bark is thin, scaly, and grayish brown. It is in leaf 12-Jan, and the seeds ripen from Oct to November. The leaves are needle-like, 6–15 mm (1/4–9/16 in) long, stiff, four-sided, dark bluish green on the upper sides, paler glaucous green below. The cones are the smallest of all of the spruces, 1.5–4 cm (1/2–1 1/2 in) long and 1–2 cm (1/2–3/4 in) broad, spindle-shaped to nearly round, dark purple ripening red-brown, produced in dense clusters in the upper crown, opening at maturity but persisting for several years. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Pyramidal.
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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. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist or wet soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It cannot tolerate atmospheric pollution.
Tolerates poor peaty soils. Succeeds in wet cold and shallow soils but is not very wind-firm in shallow soils. Prefers a pH between 4 to 6 and dislikes shallow chalky soils. Dislikes shade. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution. Resists wind exposure. This tree is one of the most widespread and abundant species in N. America where it is extensively utilized as a timber tree. A short lived and slow growing tree both in the wild and in cultivation. New growth takes place from early May to the end of June and rarely exceeds 60 cm even when young and is less as the tree grows old. Trees have been planted experimentally as a timber crop in N. Europe (this appears to contradict the previous statement that the tree is slow growing. The reason is probably that it is either planted in areas too harsh for most trees to grow or it is only slow growing in milder areas such as Britain). A prolific seed-producer, usually beginning to bear cones at around 10 years of age. 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. Closely related to P. rubens. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus. 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. Lower branches often self-layer and form a ring of stems around the parent plant. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value. The crushed foliage has a strong scent of balsam or lemon balm. 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. Layering. Lower branches often layer naturally in the wild.
Edible Parts: Flowers; Inner bark; Seed; Seedpod.
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 1 – 4cm in diameter. Inner bark – cooked. It is usually harvested in the spring and can be 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 tea is also made from the needles and the bark. A gum obtained from the bark is collected in considerable quantities and used for chewing. Hardened blobs make an excellent chewing gum. It should be aged for 3 days or more before using it. The best gum is obtained from the southern side of the tree. Another report says that the gum, called ‘spruce gum’, is a resinous exudation collected from the branches. A source of ‘spruce oil’, used commercially for flavouring. The young twigs are boiled with molasses, sugar etc and then fermented to produce ‘Spruce beer’. The beer is ready to drink in a week and is considered to be a good source of minerals and vitamins.
A poultice of the inner bark has been applied to inflammations. A tea made from the inner bark is a folk remedy for kidney stones, stomach problems and rheumatism. An infusion of the roots and bark has been used in the treatment of stomach pains, trembling and fits. A resin from the trunk is used as a poultice and salve on sores to promote healing. The resin can be mixed with oil and used as a dressing on purulent wounds, bad burns, skin rashes, scabies and persistent scabs. The resin can be chewed as an aid to digestion. A decoction of the gum or leaves has been used in treating respiratory infections and kidney problems. An infusion of the leaves has been used as a bath or a rub in treating dry skin or sores. A decoction of the young twigs has been used in the treatment of coughs. A decoction of the cones has been drunk in the treatment of diarrhoea. A decoction has been used externally as a gargle to treat sore throats. The cones have been chewed to treat a sore mouth and toothaches.
Landscape Uses:Screen, Specimen. Likes abundant moisture at the roots, if grown in drier areas it must be given a deep moist soil.
A yellow-orange dye is obtained from the cones. Various native North American Indian tribes made a string from the long roots of this species and used it to stitch the bark of their canoes, to sew baskets etc. The pitch obtained from the trunk has been used as a sealing material on the hulls of canoes. Wood – light, soft, not strong. It weighs 28lb per cubic foot. Since it is a smaller tree than the other spruces, it is not an important lumber source for uses such as construction. However, it is widely used for making boxes, crates etc, and is valued for its use in the pulp industry to make paper, plus it is also used as a fuel.
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.