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What Is a Red Spruce?

Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton

Found primarily in southern Canada and the northeastern United States, the red spruce tree has both residential and industrial uses. This tree is normally very tall with a wide trunk base when fully mature, but young and old trees alike are narrower towards the top. As an evergreen, this tree produces both male and female flowers and cones. Also known as Picea rubens, this type of spruce tree has needles that are continually shed throughout the year. It grows best in certain types of soils, but can withstand cold temperatures and varying amounts of sunlight.

The triangular shape and dark green needles of a red spruce make it a popular choice for a Christmas tree. This species also transmits sound well, so it is often used to make musical instruments, especially guitars. The pulp of the red spruce is ideal for making paper, while lumber or firewood might come from the tree's wood. Planting red spruce is one way of providing habitat for small animals while controlling erosion on hillsides.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

When fully mature, the red spruce can reach a height of 60 to 75 feet (18 to 23 m), although some specimens grow as high as 110 feet (33.55 m). The trunk of this tree is generally around 2 feet (0.62 m) in diameter and very straight. In the spring, the plant's male flowers appear to be dark red while female ones are slightly purple. These flowers produce reddish-brown cones that are about 1.4 inches (3.56 cm) long.

The dark green needles of this spruce tree are normally thin and pointed and may even feel sharp on the edges. They run the entire length of the tree's branches and are individually attached rather than appearing in clusters. Needles normally turn yellow and drop from the tree in sections, but they are normally replaced quickly so this process is hardly noticeable. Although the trunk is very straight, the branches often turn upward on the ends, especially toward the bottom of the tree.

When growing spruce trees, it is best to plant them in moist and somewhat acidic soil. A red spruce can tolerate either full or partial sunlight, and some seedlings even thrive when given only filtered sunlight. It can normally withstand very cold temperatures. This specimen may live up to 400 years if protected from fire and disease.

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