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.