The black spruce is a small conifer growing only 10 to 15 metres tall. The trunk, which is smaller at the top than at the bottom, can range from 15 to 40 centimetres in diameter. The branches of this tree droop and the lowest branches even touch the ground. The bark is thin and flaky and when the outer greyish layer is removed an olive-green coloured inner bark can be seen. The evergreen needles of this conifer are sharp and stiff and they are bluish-green in colour.
RANGE & HABITAT
The black spruce can be found in the northern areas from Alaska to Newfoundland and south to British Columbia in wet forests where the temperatures are low, and in peat bogs and swamps. This tree likes valley bottoms that have a short, frost-free season.
The slack spruce can live for up to 250 years. Their cones that appear in clusters are recorded to stay on the tree for 20 to 30 years at a time. The lower branches of the tree also take root in the ground creating patches of smaller trees surrounding the main tree.
Many different birds eat the seeds of the black spruce and although larger animals do not feed from this tree the white-tailed deer will eat young trees of this type when they are starving and no other food sources are available.
TRADITIONAL FIRST NATIONS USES
The needles of the tree were used to make spruce beer, and the pitch of the tree was actually made into a chewing gum.
The black spruce is used for making paper products like facial tissue.
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
Photo: Eli Sagor