sITKA SPRUCE

ALASKA’S STATE TREE

Picea sitchensis 
Plant symbol = PISI
Additional Information

Alternative Names 

Western Hemlock / Western Swordfern Forest

Picea-sitchensis
Description

General: Sitka spruce’s natural range is a narrow strip of land along the northern Pacific coast from south-central Alaska to northern California. Its widest distribution (130 miles [210 km] inland) occurs in southwestern Alaska and northern British Columbia.

Needles

Dark blue-green, squarish, 5/8 to 1 inch long;

Needles sharp, growing on all sides of branches from woody pegs, a character common to spruce.

Cones

Light orange-brown, 2 to 3-1/2 inches long;

Usually found in the top quarter of tree, hanging down from branches;

Papery scales.

Bark

Thin and smooth when young, developing scaly plates with age;

Gray, becoming dark purplish brown with age.

Size at maturity and life span

150 to 225 feet in height and 5 to 8 feet in diameter;

Grows to larger size in southern part of its range;

500 to 700 years.

Habitat and distribution

Well-drained, upland and riparian forests;

Sea level to tree line;

From northern California, northwest along the coastline to the Alaska Peninsula.

USES

Native Americans have used Sitka spruce for various purposes. The roots can be woven to produce baskets and rain hats. The pitch was used for calking canoes, for chewing, and medicinal purposes.

Pioneers split Sitka spruce into shakes for roofing and siding. Sitka spruce also has limited food value for humans, for the inner bark and young shoots may be eaten as emergency food. Tea can be made from the young shoots.

In the first half of this century Sitka spruce provided most of the wood for structural components of World War I and II aircraft. More recently it has been used as the nose cones for missiles and spacecraft.

Sitka-Spruce
Management

This resilient tree lives along the coast from northern California to western Alaska. It grows straight and fast, its wood in the southern part of its range is highly valued for its straight grain and strength. It is the hardest of the soft woods.