Picea rubens Sarg.
Height: 65’ Shape of Crown: conical to pyramidal
Needles: sharp and 4 angled in cross section.
Cones: 1 ½ “ reddish brown
Red spruce are extremely common in New England and Atlantic Canada. They are more common than white and black spruce, and are capable of growing up through a dense canopy. In a dense forest, they lose their lower branches over time and develop a conical shape with a pointed top.
You can tell the difference between a spruce and a fir tree by pulling off one of the needles and rolling it between your fingers. The spruce needle will roll easily because it is square in cross section, but the fir needle will not because it is flat. If you turn the fir needle over you will see 2 white stripes.
Like other conifers, the red spruce produces cones made up of scales that protect the “naked” seeds. In the spring, these cones can be found littered on the forest floor, still intact. They are reddish-brown to orange-brown in color with thin rounded scales spirally arranged. Before they fall to the ground, they hang like pendants from the branches. These 1 ½ “ spruce cones can be differentiated from pine cones, because the scales do not have the same thick woody texture.
If you inspect the cones closer, you’ll find a pair of small winged seeds inside between the scales. Red spruce trees grow among many companion trees, including but not limited to balsam fir, white pine, aspen, birch (grey, yellow & white), and maple (sugar, red, striped).
Red spruce is very adaptable and may live on sloping terrain, on mountains, and along highways. The wood is considered a soft wood, but is used readily in dimensional lumbar, which is a combination of spruce. pine, and fir. Look for the SPF stamp on your next 2×4.