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Spruce facts for kids

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Norway Spruce (Picea abies)
Scientific classification

Spruce are trees of the genus Picea, a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the Family Pinaceae, found in the northern temperate and taiga regions of the earth.

Spruces are large trees, from 20–60 (–95) m tall when mature, and can be distinguished by their conical form and their needles, that are attached singly to the branches in a spiral fashion. The needles are shed when 4–10 years old.


  • Picea abies Norway Spruce. Europe; important in forestry. The original Christmas tree.
  • Picea asperata Dragon Spruce. Western China; several varieties.
  • Picea meyeri Meyer's Spruce. Northern China.
  • Picea koraiensis Korean Spruce. Korea, northeast China.
  • Picea koyamae Koyama's Spruce. Japan (mountains).


Thirty-five named species of spruce exist in the world. The Plant List has 59 accepted spruce names.

Basal species:

Clade Description Image Cone Name Common Name Distribution
Clade I Northern and western North America, in boreal forests or high mountains Picea breweriana young shoots.jpg Picea breweriana mature cone.jpg Picea breweriana Brewer's spruce Klamath Mountains, North America; local endemic
Picea sitchensis5.jpg Picea sitchensis 5713.JPG Picea sitchensis Sitka spruce Pacific coast of North America; the largest species, to 95 m tall; important in forestry
Picea engelmannii 02.jpg Picea engelmannii UGA2.jpg Picea engelmannii Engelmann spruce western North American mountains; important in forestry
Picea glauca 04.JPG Picea glauca cones.jpg Picea glauca white spruce northern North America; important in forestry
Clade II Throughout Asia, mostly in mountainous areas, a few isolated populations in higher elevations of Mexico Picea brachytyla Scone palace 02.jpg Picea brachytyla Sargent's spruce southwest China
Picea chihuahuana 2.jpg Picea chihuahuana Chihuahua spruce northwest Mexico (rare)
Picea farreri Burmese spruce northeast Burma, southwest China (mountains)
Picea likiangensis - Quarryhill Botanical Garden - DSC03422.JPG Picea likiangensis MHNT.BOT.2004.0.163.jpg Picea likiangensis Likiang spruce southwest China
Picea martinezii 2.jpg Picea martinezii Martinez spruce northeast Mexico (very rare, endangered)
Picea maximowiczii.JPG Picea maximowiczii Maximowicz spruce Japan (rare, mountains)
Picea morrisonicola Alishan.jpg Picea morrisonicola Taiwan spruce Taiwan (high mountains)
Picea neoveitchii Veitch's spruce northwest China (rare, endangered)
Picea orientalis1.jpg Picea orientalis zampach4.JPG Picea orientalis Caucasian spruce or Oriental spruce Caucasus, northeast Turkey
Picea purpurea Rogów placard.JPG Picea purpurea purple cone spruce western China
Picea schrenkiana subsp. tianschanica - Botanical Garden in Kaisaniemi, Helsinki - DSC03754.JPG Picea schrenkiana Schrenk's spruce mountains of central Asia
New growth of Himalayan or Morinda Spruce Picea smithiana.JPG Picea smithiana Brno4.JPG Picea smithiana morinda spruce western Himalaya, eastern Afghanistan, northern and northwest India
Picea spinulosa Sikkim spruce northeast India (Sikkim), eastern Himalaya
Picea torano 1zz.jpg Picea torano Brno4.JPG Picea torano tiger-tail spruce Japan
Picea wilsonii Wilson's spruce western China
Clade III Europe, Asia, and North America, mostly in boreal forests or mountainous areas Norway Spruce foliage, Fågelmara, Sweden.jpg Picea abies cones -- Czechia.jpg Picea abies Norway spruce Europe; important in forestry, the original Christmas tree
Picea alcoquiana zampach1.JPG Picea alcoquiana cone, Fujisan Yoshidaguchi.jpg Picea alcoquiana – ("P. bicolor") Alcock's spruce central Japan (mountains)
Picea asperata - Quarryhill Botanical Garden - DSC03608.JPG Picea asperata, Arnold Arboretum (32080173332).jpg Picea asperata dragon spruce western China; several varieties
Picea crassifolia Qinghai spruce China
Picea glehnii4.JPG Picea glehnii Glehn's spruce northern Japan, Sakhalin
Sakhalin's nature. 08.jpg Picea jezoensis Jezo spruce northeast Asia, Kamchatka south to Japan
Picea koraiensis young.JPG Picea koraiensis Korean spruce Korea, northeast China
Picea koyamae shoot.JPG Picea koyamae Koyama's spruce Japan (mountains)
Picea mariana 2-eheep (5097482191).jpg Picea mariana cone.JPG Picea mariana black spruce northern North America
Picea meyeri Meyer's spruce northern China (from Inner Mongolia to Gansu)
Picea obovata Brno1.JPG Picea obovata Brno3.JPG Picea obovata Siberian spruce north Scandinavia, Siberia; often treated as a variant of P. abies (and hybridises with it), but has distinct cones)
Picea omorika1.jpg Picea omorika cone.JPG Picea omorika Serbian spruce Serbia and Bosnia; local endemic; important in horticulture
Japonské mosty.JPG Picea pungens2.jpg Picea pungens blue spruce or Colorado spruce Rocky Mountains, North America; important in horticulture
Picea retroflexa green dragon spruce China
2013-08-25 15 38 52 Closeup of Red Spruce foliage across Taborton Road from the entrance to Spring Lake in Berlin, New York.jpg Picea rubens UGA5349098.jpg Picea rubens red spruce northeastern North America; important in forestry, known as Adirondack in musical-instrument making



Wood picea abies
P. abies wood

Spruce is useful as a building wood, commonly referred to by several different names including North American timber, SPF (spruce, pine, fir) and whitewood (the collective name for spruce wood). Spruce wood is used for many purposes, ranging from general construction work and crates to highly specialised uses in wooden aircraft. The Wright brothers' first aircraft, the Flyer, was built of spruce.

Because this species has no insect or decay resistance qualities after logging, it is generally recommended for construction purposes as indoor use only (indoor drywall framing, for example). Spruce wood, when left outside cannot be expected to last more than 12–18 months depending on the type of climate it is exposed to.


Spruce is one of the most important woods for paper uses, as it has long wood fibres which bind together to make strong paper. The fibres are thin walled and collapse to thin bands upon drying. Spruces are commonly used in mechanical pulping as they are easily bleached. Together with northern pines, northern spruces are commonly used to make NBSK. Spruces are cultivated over vast areas as pulpwood.

Food and medicine

Spruce (Picea mariana) essential oil in a clear glass vial

The fresh shoots of many spruces are a natural source of vitamin C. Captain Cook made alcoholic sugar-based spruce beer during his sea voyages in order to prevent scurvy in his crew. The leaves and branches, or the essential oils, can be used to brew spruce beer.

The tips from the needles can be used to make spruce tip syrup . In survival situations spruce needles can be directly ingested or boiled into a tea. This replaces large amounts of vitamin C. Also, water is stored in a spruce's needles, providing an alternative means of hydration . Spruce can be used as a preventive measure for scurvy in an environment where meat is the only prominent food source .


Spruce is the standard material used in soundboards for many musical instruments, including guitars, mandolins, cellos, violins, and the soundboard at the heart of a piano and the harp. Wood used for this purpose is referred to as tonewood.

Spruce, along with cedar, is often used for the soundboard/top of an acoustic guitar. The main types of spruce used for this purpose are Sitka, Engelmann, Adirondack and European spruces.

Other uses

The resin was used in the manufacture of pitch in the past (before the use of petrochemicals); the scientific name Picea derives from Latin picea "pitch pine" (referring to Scots pine), from piceus, an adjective from pix "pitch".

Native Americans in North America use the thin, pliable roots of some species for weaving baskets and for sewing together pieces of birch bark for canoes. See also Kiidk'yaas for an unusual golden Sitka Spruce sacred to the Haida people.

Spruces are popular ornamental trees in horticulture, admired for their evergreen, symmetrical narrow-conic growth habit. For the same reason, some (particularly Picea abies and P. omorika) are also extensively used as Christmas trees, with artificial Christmas trees often being produced in their likenesses.

Spruce branches are also used at Aintree racecourse, Liverpool, to build several of the fences on the Grand National course. It is also used to make sculptures.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Picea para niños

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