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White Spruce Photo
White spruce is a medium-sized conifer found in northeastern
United States and throughout Canada. It is the state tree of
South Dakota. White spruce has a cone-shaped crown, and
when grown in the open develops a conical crown which extends
nearly to the ground. This habit along with the spreading
branches give it a nice appearance for use as an ornamental.
Trees often reach 80-140 feet in height and 1.5 to 3 feet in
diameter. The oldest white spruce may reach 300 years of age.

Leaves (needles) are needle-shaped, and are often somewhat
crowded on the upper half of the branchlets. Needles are usually
1/2 to 3/4 inch long, blunt at the tip and green to bluish-green in
color. Typically, needles are 4 angled (4-sided) and are present
on short twig-like structures on the stem (sterigmata). When
crushed, needles have a disagreeable odor, thus, the common
name of "skunk spruce" or "cat spruce" is often used by those
familiar with the species. The bark is thin, light grayish-brown
and is produced in irregular, thin, scaly plates.

The species is monecious, meaning both male and female
flowers (strobili) are found on the same tree. Pollination occurs
in the spring and cones mature in one season. Cones are slender
about 1 1/4 to 2 inches long and ripen in early fall. Cones are pale
brown at maturity with scales that are thin, flexible, and rounded.
Cones usually fall from the tree shortly after seeds are shed.

White spruce is tolerant of a considerable amount of shade.
Its best growth is on moist, acidic, loamy soils and is often
found on stream banks, lake shores and adjacent slopes.
The species seldom occurs in pure stands but grows in
association with balsam fir, black spruce, eastern hemlock,
trembling aspen, and other northern hardwoods.

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As a Christmas tree, white
spruce has excellent foliage
color, short stiff needles and
a good natural shape. Needle
retention is better than some
of other spruce species.


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