Picea rubens

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Red spruce
Picea rubens UGA5349098.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Picea
Species: P. rubens
Binomial name
Picea rubens
Picea rubens range map.png
  • Abies americana K.Koch nom. illeg.
  • Abies rubra (Du Roi) Poir.
  • Picea americana Suringar
  • Picea australis Small
  • Picea nigra var. rubra (Du Roi) Engelm.
  • Picea rubra (Du Roi) Link nom. illeg.
  • Pinus abies var. acutissima Münchh.
  • Pinus americana Gaertn. nom. illeg.
  • Pinus mariana var. rubra Du Roi
  • Pinus rubra (Du Roi) D.Don nom. illeg.

Picea rubens, commonly known as red spruce, is a species of spruce native to eastern North America, ranging from eastern Quebec to Nova Scotia, and from New England south in the Adirondack Mountains and Appalachians to western North Carolina.[3][4][5]

This species is also known as yellow spruce, West Virginia spruce, eastern spruce, and he-balsam.[6][7]


Foliage and cones

Red spruce is a perennial,[8] shade-tolerant, late successional[9] coniferous tree which under optimal conditions grows to 18–40 m (59–131 ft) tall with a trunk diameter of about 60 cm (24 in), though exceptional specimens can reach 46 m (151 ft) tall and 100 cm (39 inches) in diameter. It has a narrow conical crown. The leaves are needle-like, yellow-green, 12–15 mm (15321932 in) long, four-sided, curved, with a sharp point, and extend from all sides of the twig. The bark is gray-brown on the surface and red-brown on the inside, thin, and scaly. The wood is light, soft, has narrow rings, and has a slight red tinge.[10] The cones are cylindrical, 3–5 cm (1 14–2 in) long, with a glossy red-brown color and stiff scales. The cones hang down from branches.[3][4][5][11]


Dense red spruce forest in its native habitat at the summit of Spruce Knob, West Virginia

Red spruce grows at a slow to moderate rate, lives for 250 to 450+ years, and is very shade-tolerant when young.[12] It is often found in pure stands or forests mixed with eastern white pine, balsam fir, or black spruce. Along with Fraser fir, red spruce is one of two primary tree types in the southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest, a distinct ecosystem found only in the highest elevations of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.[13] Its habitat is moist but well-drained sandy loam, often at high altitudes. Red spruce can be easily damaged by windthrow and acid rain.

Notable red spruce forests can be seen at Gaudineer Scenic Area, a virgin red spruce forest located in West Virginia, the Canaan Valley, Roaring Plains West Wilderness, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Spruce Mountain and Spruce Knob all also in West Virginia and all sites of former extensive red spruce forest. Some areas of this forest, particularly in Roaring Plains West Wilderness, Dolly Sods Wilderness as well as areas of Spruce Mountain are making a rather substantial recovery.

Related species[edit]

It is closely related to black spruce, and hybrids between the two are frequent where their ranges meet.[3][4][5]


Red spruce is used for Christmas trees and is an important wood used in making paper pulp. It is also an excellent tonewood, and is used in many higher-end acoustic guitars and violins, as well as musical soundboard. The sap can be used to make spruce gum.[11] Leafy red spruce twigs are boiled as a part of making spruce beer. Also it can be made into spruce pudding. It can also be used as construction lumber and is good for millwork and for crates.[14]

Red spruce is the provincial tree of Nova Scotia.[4]

Red spruce cones from the Pisgah National Forest

Damaging factors[edit]

Like most trees, red spruce is subject to insect parasitism. Their insect enemy is the spruce budworm, although it is a bigger problem for white spruce and balsam fir.[15] Other issues that have been damaging red spruce has been the increase in acid rain and current climate change.[16]


The Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (CASRI)[17] seeks to unite diverse partners with the goal of restoring historic red spruce ecosystems across the high-elevation landscapes of central Appalachians

The partners that make up this diverse group are Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture, Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Mountain Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station, U.S. Forest Service Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, West Virginia Division of Forestry, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia State Parks, and West Virginia University.[18]

Prior to the late 1800s, 600,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres) of red spruce were in West Virginia. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a vast amount of logging began in the state and the number of red spruce dwindled to 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres). Silviculture is being used to help restore the population of the lost red spruce.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Farjon, A. (2013). "Picea rubens". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2013: e.T42335A2973542. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T42335A2973542.en. Retrieved 11 November 2016. 
  2. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". 
  3. ^ a b c Farjon, A. (1990). Pinaceae. Drawings and Descriptions of the Genera. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3-87429-298-3.
  4. ^ a b c d "Picea rubens". Flora of North America (FNA). Missouri Botanical Garden – via eFloras.org. 
  5. ^ a b c Gymnosperm Database: Picea rubens
  6. ^ Blum, Barton M. (1990). "Picea rubens". In Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H. Conifers. Silvics of North America. Washington, D.C.: United States Forest Service (USFS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 1 – via Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry (www.na.fs.fed.us). 
  7. ^ Peattie, Donald Culross (1948-01-01). A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 51. ISBN 0-395-58174-5. 
  8. ^ "Red Spruce (Rubens)". Garden Guides. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  9. ^ Dumais, D; Prevost, M (June 2007). "Management for red spruce conservation in Quebec: The importance of some physiological and ecological characteristics – A review". Forestry Chronicle. 83 (3): 378–392. doi:10.5558/tfc83378-3. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Red Spruce" (PDF). USDA NRCS. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Atlantic Forestry Centre: Red Spruce
  12. ^ http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~adk/oldlisteast/#spp
  13. ^ Peter White, "Boreal Forest," Encyclopedia of Appalachia (Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 2006), pp. 49-50.
  14. ^ "Red Spruce". The Wood Database. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Blum, Barton. "Red Spruce". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Houle, Daniel (2012). "Compositional vegetation changes and increased red spruce abundance during the Little Ice Age in a sugar maple forest of north-eastern North America". Plant Ecology. 213 (6): 1027–1035. doi:10.1007/s11258-012-0062-0. 
  17. ^ Burks, Evan (2010), "Return of the Red Spruce", Wonderful West Virginia; Vol. 74, No. 12 (Dec issue), pp 6-11.
  18. ^ Bove, Jennifer. "Appalachian Red Spruce Forest". Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  19. ^ Rentch, James; T. Schuler; M. Ford; G. Nowacki (September 2007). "Red Spruce Stand Dynamics, Simulations, and Restoration Opportunities in the Central Appalachians". Restoration Ecology. 15 (3): 440–452. doi:10.1111/j.1526-100x.2007.00240.x. Retrieved 27 February 2014.