Sitka Spruce

Picea sitchensis


Sitka spruce have papery seed cones and stiff sharp needles, and thin and scaly brown-purplish bark. The tree has light, soft, strong and flexible wood. It grows an average of 70 metres tall and two metres in diameter.


It can be found along the west coast of B.C., from sea level to 700 metres in elevation. Sitka spruce is the largest spruce in B.C. and the tallest tree in Canada (95 metres tall!). It is found in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island. In B.C., this tree is found in the Coast and Mountain ecoprovince.


The Sitka spruce has a very fast growth rate. Its cones grow at the top of the tree, and ripen in one growing season. New twigs are yellow-brown to orangey-brown with a flat, wide shape.


Since the Sitka spruce provides a canopy that shields wind, rain and cold, larger animals such as deer and fox will go under the branches for shelter. It provides space for nesting and for hunting by birds of prey like goshawks and sparrow hawks. The crossbill, creeper, coal tit and pine siskin are smaller birds that also make their homes and feeding grounds near the Sitka spruce.

Traditional First Nations Uses

The roots were wound into hats, baskets, rope. The pitch was used for waterproofing and glue. The young shoots were eaten for vitamin C and as a laxative. The wood was used for construction and art.


Today the Sitka spruce is used in construction, ships, and musical instruments.


COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Yellow


Photo: Kari Pihlaviita