Picea species

Spruce trees are evergreens with needles borne singly. These square or more or less flattened needles have sharp tips. Picea glauca (white spruce) trees do not have hairs on their twigs, and the cones are longer and more oval in outline than black spruce cones. Picea mariana (black spruce) cones are roundish ovals; young twigs have fine hairs between the needles. Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce), the largest tree of Alaska, is the state tree.

In the interior forests, white spruce is the most common tree. It occurs from near sea level to treeline at about 1,000 to 3,500 feet (305 to 607 meters). It grows best in well-drained soil on south-facing gentle slopes, and in sandy soil along the edges of lakes and rivers. (L. Viereck)

Black spruce is characteristic of north-facing slopes and lowlands underlaid by permafrost. Sitka spruce is coastal in distribution.

Medicinal uses:
The pitch or gum from the spruce tree has been used for medicinal plasters. Pitch from both the European Norway spruce and the North American spruce has been used as medication for cuts and scratches. (Lust, Carroll) Spruce pitch's healing properties may be due to the fact that it keeps the wound clean, preventing infection during the natural healing process. The pitch should be clear and soft and it should be covered with a bandage. (Hall)

Hall lists some additional uses for spruce pitch: smear pitch on canvas, melt it in an oven, and use it to cover a sore back; put pitch on a large piece of cloth, put snow in the cloth, and wrap the cloth around the head to relieve a headache; mix pitch with just enough grease to spread it on infected sores or cuts; and boil pitch and drink as much as you can for urinary problems. For blood poisoning, spread pitch on a cloth and wrap the infection site and red streak up as far as it goes; rub pitch on warts. If the pitch is a sticky white gum, boil it 5 to 10 minutes and drink for chest and head colds.

Uses for spruce needles from Hall are: boil the needles for one hour, strain, and wash with the solution to clear up hives or rashes; boil needles 5 to 10 minutes and take 2 to 3 teaspoons two to three times a day for a cold; drink 1 cup of spruce needle solution a day to purify the blood; boil needles constantly to rid the house of infections; and boil needles and drink the solution, or dilute needle solution with water and sit in it, for urinary problems.

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Copyright © 1987 by Eleanor G. Viereck