Characteristics of White Spruce Tree (Picea engelmannii) in the Wild

Picea engelmannii
The white spruce or Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) is a species of conifer tree native to western North America, from central British Columbia and southwest Alberta, southwest to northern California, and southeast to Arizona and New Mexico, there are also two isolated populations in northern Mexico. This tree mostly grows on mountains with an altitude of 1000-3600 m asl, rarely lower.

White spruce has economic importance for its wood, it is harvested for papermaking and general construction. Wood from slow-growing trees in the highlands has special uses in the manufacture of musical instruments such as acoustic guitars, harps, violins, and pianos. Sometimes this tree is also used for Christmas trees.

The two geographic subspecies (treated as varieties by some authors, and as distinct species by others) are:

  • Picea engelmannii subsp. engelmannii – All ranges except others.
  • Picea engelmannii subsp. mexicana – Called the Mexican Spruce. There are isolated populations in the high mountains of northern Mexico, in the Sierra del Carmen in Coahuila, El Coahuilon, Sierra de la Marta, and in Cerro Mohinora in Chihuahua.

 

Characteristics of White Spruce Leaf

Picea engelmannii Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/marek

The leaves are needle-like, 15-30 long, with rhombic sections, bluish-green above with some fine lines from the stomata, and bluish-white below with two broad bands of stomata.

 

Characteristics of White Spruce Fruit

Picea engelmannii Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/twr61

The male cones are dark purple. The female cones are bright red. The cones are brown when ripe, ovoid, 2.5-6 cm long. They have thin, flexible, and wedge-shaped conical scales 15-20 mm long, the ends of which are often sliced. Each cone forms 8-20 dark brown to almost black seeds. Seeds are 2-3 mm long, about 2 mm wide, and have light brown wings 12-14 mm long.

 

Characteristics of White Spruce Tree

Picea engelmannii Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/marek

White spruce grows as a large evergreen tree that reaches a height of up to 40 meters, and the highest is usually 65 meters, with a trunk diameter of up to 1.5 meters. The bark is thin, scaly, and peeling. The crown of the tree is narrow conical in young trees, then becomes cylindrical in older trees.

This tree has shallow roots and is therefore at risk of falling when exposed to strong winds. Most of the White spruce root system is at a depth of 30-46 cm. In deep soil, the root system can penetrate to a depth of 2.5 meters.

White spruce can live (if undisturbed) for up to 600 years or more.

 

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