Black spruce

Silhouette - black spruce
  • Latin name: Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.
  • French name: Épinette noire
  • Synonym(s): Swamp spruce , bog spruce
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 183302
Description

Leaves

  • Needle and needle cross section - black spruce

Form

  • Straight, blunt-pointed
  • Needles densely set along the twig
  • Side needles at right angles, upper needles pointing forward

Length

  • 8–15 mm

Colour

  • Dull greyish-green
  • Lines of white dots more prominent on lower surface

Buds

Form

  • Conical, blunt-tipped; outer scales hairy with long slender points projecting beyond the tip of the bud, inner scales broader

Length

  • 3–5 mm

Colour

  • Outer scales dull brownish-grey
  • Inner scales darker brown

Twigs

  • Twig terminal with details of twig hairs, some crooked (upper) and some gland-tipped (lower) - black spruce

Form

  • Leaf-cushions flat, grooves closed, with many short brownish hairs, which may be crooked and/or tipped with a gland
  • Twigs of very young trees often hairless

Colour

  • Dark orange-brown or yellowish-brown, dull, with a dark purplish stain at the base of the leaf-peg

Seed cones (immature)

Form

  • Broadly ovoid
  • Blunt-pointed, gradually tapered to a curved, short, scale-covered stalk

Length

  • 2–3 cm

Colour

  • Deep red to purple changing to dark purplish-brown

Structure

  • Scales brittle, tight-fitting
  • Margin irregularly toothed

Seed cones (mature)

  • Cone scale; outer surface (left), inner surface (right), winged seed and seed (below) - black spruce

Form

  • Open cones almost spherical

Structure

  • Scale margin thin, brittle, toothed

Timing

  • Some cones produced nearly every year
  • Mature in September
  • Remain on the tree up to 30 years
  • Often massed at the top of the tree

Seeds

Length

  • Seed about 2 mm
  • Seed wing 2–4 mm

Colour

  • Dark

Bark

Form

  • Thin, scaly or shredded when young
  • Scales becoming larger

Colour

  • Reddish- or greyish-brown when young, becoming darker
  • Newly exposed bark olive-green or yellowish-green

Wood

Uses

  • Wood pulp, lumber

Size

Height

  • To 20 m on poorly drained sites
  • To 30 m on well-drained upland sites

Diameter

  • To 30 cm on poorly drained sites
  • To 60 cm on well-drained sites

Maximum age

  • 200 years

Tree form

  • Silhouette - black spruce

Forest-grown

Crown

  • On poorly drained sites, crown narrow, spire-like
  • On well-drained upland sites, principal branches short compared with other spruces, lower ones greatly drooping, tips upturned
  • Upper part of the crown often very dense, oddly shaped, with many cones

Root system

  • Very shallow, especially on organic soils with a high water table

Habitat

Site

  • Adaptable
  • In the southern part of its range generally confined to wet poorly drained sites
  • Usually a slow-growing wetland tree, but occurs frequently on upland sites
  • Northward, usually grows on moist organic soils

Light tolerance

  • Moderately shade-tolerant

Associated species

  • In the southern part of its range, in pure stands or with tamarack
  • Northward, in extensive pure stands, or mixed with jack pine, white spruce, balsam fir, white birch, trembling aspen, and lodgepole pine

Range

Transcontinental, southward into the United States

Insects and diseases

Insects and diseases that are found most frequently and/or that cause the most damage in our Canadian forests.

Photos
  • Black spruce
  • Black spruce
  • Black spruce
  • Black spruce
  • Black spruce
Distribution map
Distribution map - black spruce
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