Spruce trees are coniferous evergreens. They range greatly in size, color and shape, from the medium-sized, ornamental Colorado blue spruce to the enormous Sitka spruce. There are seven spruce species native to North America, according to Tree Help. Spruce trees are desirable for their hardiness, slow rate of growth and attractive appearance.
Spruce trees are temperate climate trees. They grow best in areas that have cold or cool winters and mild summers. While individual species vary, in general, spruce trees grow best in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 2 through 8. The popular Norway spruce thrives in zones 3 through 7, while the White spruce is only heat-hardy to zone 6.
Spruce trees have traditionally been a symbol of North America, especially when representing the mountainous areas of the continent. The species represents the state tree of Utah (Blue spruce), Alaska (Sitka spruce), Colorado (Colorado Blue spruce) and South Dakota (Black Hills spruce). Spruce trees are also popular Christmas trees, as they have a naturally pyramidal shape and needles that cling tightly to the branches. Spruce trees used as Christmas trees include the White, Norway and Colorado Blue spruces.
Spruce trees are used in several different ways. They are a favorite choice of landscapers and home gardeners as an ornamental tree. This is especially true in the case of Norway and Blue spruce trees. The wood of some spruce trees is commercially valuable. White spruce trees are used for pulpwood, construction lumber and for making violins and guitars. The resin in Norway spruce trees has also been used in ointments used for treating chronic wounds, according to a study published in the Journal of Wound Care.
Spruce trees prefer rich, consistently moist soil that is well-draining. The roots can suffer in soil that is overly wet, according to North Dakota State University, or alternately, soil that is too hot and dry. Spruce trees grow equally well in full sunlight or in partial shade. Although spruce trees in general are hardy trees, they can suffer from common fungal diseases such as needlecast. Spraying them with a fungicide in the spring can help prevent fungi from taking hold of the tree.
Spruce trees are often considered to be "female" in form. Nicknamed the "Queen" of the forest, these trees are thought to protect the people and animals that live beneath them. Many traditions that symbolize new life, such as the dance around the maypole, utilize spruce wood.