Content Detail

Black spruce is a small, narrow evergreen tree with a spire-like crown.  It has descending branches, with dark, bluish-green needles, and upturned ends. Lower limbs sweep the ground. It is an excellent choice for cold northern climates and tolerant of wet sites.

  • Family (English) Pine
  • Family (botanic) Pinaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Evergreen (foliage year-round)
  • Native locale North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet), Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Occasional drought, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early fall, early spring, early summer, early winter, late fall, late spring, late summer, late winter, mid fall, mid spring, midsummer, midwinter
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Narrow, Pyramidal, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow

Size and form:

A black spruce can get 30 to 50 feet high and 20 to 30 feet wide. The tree is very narrow and conical to spire-like with descending branches. The lower limbs sweep the ground.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Black spruce is native to northern North America, from Newfoundland to Alaska, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and central British Columbia. In its more southern range it is found growing around bogs and swamps. 

Attracts birds and butterflies:

The twigs, leaves and seeds of the black spruce are important wildlife food. This tree is very valuable as a nesting site for birds. 

Bark color and texture:

Black spruce bark is dark gray, thin and scaly. As the bark breaks into scales, the inner green bark is revealed.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

The blue green, stiff needles are attached singly to the stem and are paler underneath. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The black spruce cones are the smallest of all of the spruces. They are rounded to spindle-shape, dark purple ripening to red-brown. They are produced in dense clusters in the top of the tree. Cones are known to persist for several years.

Plant care:

Black spruce does best in cold northern climates. It may be stressed in warm summers or above zone 6 temperatures. The shallow, spreading root system benefits from a 3-4” layer of organic mulch. Black spruce needs very little in the way of pruning. All evergreens experience seasonal needle fall in autumn. The interior, older needles turn brown and drop. 

List of pests and diseases:

There aren’t any serious disease or insect problems, but needle rusts and cankers can occur. Black spruce is prone to wind throw (uprooting by wind), due to its shallow root system.

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