The spruce tree is embedded in North American culture and mountain landscapes. Many states claim a type of spruce as their state tree---the Alaskan state tree is the Sitka spruce; the Colorado state tree is the Colorado blue spruce; the South Dakota state tree is the Black Hills spruce; and the Utah state tree is the blue spruce.
Spruce Tree Characteristics
Spruce trees are hardy evergreens primarily found throughout countries in the northern hemisphere. Unlike pine or fir trees, spruce trees produce single needles along the branches, leaving a small base from the stem if the needle falls from the tree, and the cones hang from the branches up to several months after they are ripe.
Spruce Tree Types
Varietes include the black spruce, red spruce and the white spruce, named for their needle or cone color. Other common varieties are the Oriental spruce, Japanese spruce, Himalayan spruce, Norway spruce, Colorado spruce, Colorado blue spruce, Serbian spruce and the Sitka spruce, named for their native locations. The largest is the Sitka spruce, and the world's largest Sitka spruce is 191 feet tall with a circumference of 58 feet. The oldest recorded spruce was a white spruce at 852 years old.
Spruce Tree Uses
Spruce wood has long been used for a variety of purposes, including lumber; boxes and crates; to create musical instruments including Stradivari violins; to build ship masts; to make burgundy pitch from the Norway spruce; and to make tannin from spruce bark extract. Young growth is used to make spruce beer. The resin is an ingredient in many ointments and oils to relieve muscle tension, rheumatism, and to increase circulation.
The Spruce Tree and Christmas
Every year people purchase several varieties of spruce trees sold in mass quantities as Christmas trees. The United States National Christmas Tree is a living Colorado blue spruce adorned with decorations each holiday season and surrounded with festivities. Every year, Norway gifts New York city with a Norway spruce placed in the middle of Rockefeller Center.
Miscellaneous Spruce Tree Facts
Cultures have held the spruce as a protective tree. The spruce tree was once a symbol of the protective female element, a tree of life, and mother tree; they maypole often was made of spruce. Some towns in Bavaria still practice this tradition.