Picea mariana (Mill.) Britton Sterns & Poggenb.
Picea mariana (Mill.) Britton Sterns & Poggenb. var. mariana
Black spruce is native to temperate regions of North America. It prefers wetter lowland regions, or drier upland and alpine regions to elevations as high as 5000' (1.5 km). It likes long, cold winters and short summers. It is migrating gradually northward as a result of global warming.
Plants: Trees are slow-growing narrow evergreens with straight trunks and drooping branches with upturned tips. Bark is thin, scaly, and gray-brown. Branches pressed to the ground by winter snows take root, producing rings of new trees.
Leaves: Needles are linear, stiff, sharp-tipped, up to ¾" (2 cm) long, with a diamond-shaped cross section. They are attached in a spiral pattern. They are dark blue-green, often coated with a powdery white substance.
Flowers: Trees produce red male flowers that turn yellow to light brown, as well as purple female flowers that are upright, appearing in the upper crowns. Flowers appear from April to May.
Fruits: Cones are ½-1" (1.5-3 cm) long, smaller than other conifers. They are almost round and gray to black in color, in dense clusters near the top of the tree.
Edibility: Tea, spruce gum from the bark, spruce oil from the needles (a flavoring or medicine), and even spruce beer are made from black spruce.
Medical: Spruce oil prepared from spruce needles has been approved for use in treating colds, coughs, fevers, inflammation of the mouth and pharynx, nauralgias, and rheumatism. There are many unproven uses as well.
Picea mariana on gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org
Picea mariana on BorealForest.org
Picea mariana on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database
Picea mariana on Plants for a Future
Picea mariana description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.
Range: Zones 3-5: