Picea mariana (Black Spruce)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||sun; northern swamps and bogs|
|Plant height:||30 to 50 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Male and female flowers are cone like structures called strobili, both borne on the same tree at or near the tips of one year old branches. Male strobili are oblong cylindrical between 1/3 to just over ½ inch long, on a short stalk, initially red turning yellowish-brown. Female strobili are erect when young, egg shaped, about ½ inch long, and purple.
Leaves and bark:
Leaves are needle-like, dark green to bluish, single in a close spiral up the branch, ¼ to ½ inch long, squarish in cross section, the tip blunt and not sharp to the touch. The needles can persist up to 10 years.
Black Spruce shares its range with our native White Spruce (Picea glauca), which is a much larger, upland forest species with longer needles and larger cones. Black Spruce can survive in nutrient poor bogs that other species can't tolerate, forming larger pure stands of spindly, dwarfed trees. In more productive swamps it can be found mixed with Tamarack (Larix larcina), Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and to a lesser extent Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), but is easily distinguished from all these species by its short, squarish needles and small egg-shaped cones. While an important resource for the manufacturing of paper, for all intents and purposes, Black Spruce is rarely, if ever, used in landscape plantings. A highly destructive, albeit interesting, pest of Black Spruce is Dwarf Mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum), a parasitic flowering plant capable of causing extensive mortality in pure Black Spruce stands.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Aitkin and Lake counties.
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