Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Meet The "Sitka Spruce" (Picea sitchesis)

The Sitka Spruce - Picea sitchensis -  is the largest of all Spruces in the world and also the fastest growing.  In it's native growth range along the Pacific Coast this variety has been found growing over 305 feet tall and over 50 feet around.  This paticular Spruce has the greatest North to South range from the Kodiak Island region of Alaska, through British Columbia and south through California.   The largest specimens are found in the Olympic Rain Forest area.   It's name originated from the area of Sitka Alaska where it is also commonly found.  The oldest known Sitkas are estimated to be over 700 years old.  

The Sitka is one of the prickliest of all Spruces with very hard stiff needles that are almost spine like.  The old trees have broadly columnar crowns made up of large gently arched branches with short hanging shoots.  The bark is thin and scaly in appearance, it flakes off in circular plates.  The seeds are black with a small brown wing. The cones grow in slender cylinder shapes and hang in a pendulous manner. 

Image Citation (Photo 1 & 2) : Joe Nicholson, Nature photographer,

The native range of the Sitka is a predominately wet area, because of this the root systems are relatively shallow.  It grows predominately in wet areas such as the Pacific Rain Forests, Floodplains, and Inlet areas off of the Pacific Ocean.  In it's native region this tree is a rapid grower, in some cases adding more then a cubic meter of wood to it's size each year.

The Sitka is a very important to the lumber and paper products industry.  It is relatively knot free which makes it a great wood for sound conduction, because of this quality it is commonly used in piano. harp, violin and guitar production.  It was notably used to craft the Wright Brothers Flyer, as well as many other aircraft prior to World War II.  Many decades of heavy logging has left very few old growth Sitka stands remaining.  

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