Definitions

Picea rubens

Picea rubens

Picea rubens (Red Spruce) is a species of spruce native to eastern North America. Specifically, its habitat ranges from eastern Quebec to Nova Scotia, and from New England south in the Adirondack Mountains and Appalachians to western North Carolina.

It is a coniferous tree growing to 18-40 m high (sometimes it could be much shorter, about 4 m) and has a trunk diameter of about 60 cm, though exceptional specimens can reach 46 m tall and 130 cm diameter. It has a narrow conical crown. It grows at a slow to moderate rate, lives for 250 to 350 years, and is very shade-tolerant when young. It is often found in pure stands or forests mixed with Eastern White Pine, Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir or Black Spruce. Its habitat is moist but well-drained sandy loam, often at high altitudes. Red Spruce can be easily damaged by windthrow and acid rain. The leaves are needle-like, yellow-green, 12-15 mm 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 cones are cylindrical, 3-5 cm long, with a glossy red-brown color and stiff scales. The cones hang down from branches.

It is closely related to Black Spruce, and hybrids between the two are frequent where their ranges meet.

Red Spruce is used for Christmas trees and is an important wood used in making paper pulp. It is also an excellent tonewood, and is used in many higher-end acoustic guitars. The sap can be used to make spruce gum. Leafy red spruce twigs are boiled as a part of making spruce beer. Red Spruce is the Provincial tree of Nova Scotia.

Notable Red Spruce forests can be seen at Gaudineer Scenic Area, a virgin red spruce forest located in West Virginia, and the Canaan Valley, West Virginia, site of a former extensive Red Spruce forest, perhaps the finest in the world.

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