White spruce trees are the state tree of South Dakota. American Indians depended on the white spruce tree for building shelters, producing medicine, and providing firewood. Today, the white spruce tree is the source for pulpwood and lumber. The lumbered wood is used for house construction, furniture, crates, pallets, paddles, and oars.
Description of White Spruce Trees
White spruce trees grow in a straight, conical shape and have an overall blue-green color. The branches gently bow down towards the ground. The sharp, short needles sprout on all four sides of the extending twigs. The scaly trunk of a white spruce is a light, grey-brown with a diameter of 24 to 36 inches.
The white spruce is an evergreen tree, so it never loses color and it doesn’t shed all of its needles at the same time. As a conifer, white spruce trees have oval-shaped light brown cones that hang down from the branches. The cones contain the seeds of the white spruce trees.
Areas Where Spruce Trees Grow
White spruce trees grow in the Pacific Northwest, northern middle states and the Northeastern part of the United States. These locations are considered zones two to six. Most soil conditions are acceptable to the white spruce. White spruce trees flourish in loamy, silt loamy, sandy, or clay soils. The one type of soil that white spruce trees don’t do well in is constantly wet areas.
The Growth of White Spruce Trees
White spruce trees reach heights of 40 to 60 feet with a width of 10 to 30 feet. White spruce trees successfully mature with plenty of sun and average moisture levels. After their first growing season, white spruce trees become tolerant of drought.
Reproduction of White Spruce Trees
White spruce trees begin seed production after four years. The seeds are dispersed by the wind and are also spread by the red squirrel. Seed germination happens in the spring or summer and there is a 50% to 70% success rate for the seeds to grow into saplings.
White Spruce Christmas Trees and Other Uses
The design of white spruce trees is both attractive and functional. White spruce Christmas trees are a popular choice because of their beauty and perfect form. The trees also tend to take longer to release their needles than other evergreen trees. In addition, white spruce trees grow tall and are densely packed with branches from top to bottom making them a good candidate for windbreaks and natural boarders.
Wildlife and White Spruce Trees
There are many types of wildlife that rely on white spruce trees for habitats and food. Mice, red squirrels, voles, chipmunks, and shrews all live, or eat the seeds and needles of the white spruce. Deer are deterred by the white spruce tree’s prickly needles so they stay away from it. Birds like spruce grouse eat the needles while chickadees, nuthatches, crossbills, and the pine siskin like the seeds. Porcupines and black bears both like to nibble on the bark of the white spruce.