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Norway Spruce foliage
White Spruce taiga, Denali Highway, Alaska Range, Alaska.
Black Spruce foliage and cones


A spruce is a tree of the genus Picea ( ), a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the Family Pinaceae, found in the northern temperate and boreal (taiga) regions of the earth. Spruces are large trees, from 20–60 (–95) m tall when mature, and can be distinguished by their whorled branches and conical form. The needles, or leaves, of spruce trees are attached singly to the branches in a spiral fashion, each needle on a small peg-like structure called a pulvinus. The needles are shed when 4–10 years old, leaving the branches rough with the retained pulvinus (an easy means of distinguishing them from other similar genera, where the branches are fairly smooth).

Spruces are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species; see list of Lepidoptera that feed on spruces. They are also used by the larvae of Gall Adelgids (Adelges species).

The word "spruce" entered the English language from Old French "Pruce", the name of Prussia. Spruce was a generic term for commodities brought to England by Hanseatic merchants and the tree was believed to have come from Prussia. According to a different theory, some suggest that it may however be a direct loanword from a Polish expresion "[drzewo / drewno] z Prus" which literally means "[tree / timber] from Prussia". That would suggest that the late mediaeval Polish-speaking merchants would import the timber to England and the English woud pick up the expression from them.

Scientists have found a cluster of Norway Spruce in the mountains in western Swedenmarker, nicknamed Old Tjikko, which at an age of 9,550 years are claimed to be the world's oldest known living trees.

Classification

DNA analyses have shown that traditional classifications based on the morphology of needle and cone are artificial. A recent study found that P. breweriana had a basal position, followed by P. sitchensis, and the other species were further divided into three clades, suggesting that Picea originated in North America:

Clade I

* Picea breweriana Brewer's Spruce. Klamath Mountains, North America; local endemic.


Clade II

* Picea sitchensis Sitkamarker Spruce. Pacific Coast of North America; the largest species, to 95m tall; important in forestry.


Clade III

* Picea engelmannii Engelmann Spruce. Western North American mountains; important in forestry.
* Picea glauca White Spruce. Northern North America; important in forestry.


Clade IV

* Picea brachytyla Sargent's Spruce. Southwest Chinamarker.
* Picea chihuahuana Chihuahua Spruce. Northwest Mexicomarker (rare).
* Picea farreri Burmese Spruce. Northeast Burmamarker, southwest Chinamarker (mountains).
* Picea likiangensis Likiang Spruce. Southwest Chinamarker.
* Picea martinezii Martinez Spruce. Northeast Mexicomarker (very rare, endangered).
* Picea maximowiczii Maximowicz Spruce. Japanmarker (rare, mountains).
* Picea morrisonicola Yushan Spruce . Taiwanmarker (high mountains).
* Picea neoveitchii Veitch's Spruce. Northwest Chinamarker (rare, endangered).
* Picea orientalis Caucasian Spruce or Oriental Spruce . Caucasus, northeast Turkeymarker.
* Picea purpurea Purple Spruce. Western Chinamarker.
* Picea schrenkiana Schrenk's Spruce. Mountains of central Asia.
* Picea smithiana Morinda Spruce. Western Himalayamarker.
* Picea spinulosa Sikkim Spruce. Eastern Himalayamarker.
* Picea torano Tiger-tail Spruce. Japanmarker.
* Picea wilsonii Wilson's Spruce . Western Chinamarker.


Clade V

* Picea abies Norway Spruce. Europe; important in forestry. The original Christmas tree.
* Picea alcoquiana ("P. bicolor") Alcock's Spruce. Central Japanmarker (mountains).
* Picea alpestris Norway Spruce, Alpine Spruce. The Alps in Europe; rare, often treated as a variant of P. abies (and hybridises with it) distinct cones.
* Picea asperata Dragon Spruce. Western Chinamarker; several varieties.
* Picea crassifolia. Chinamarker.
* Picea glehnii Glehn's Spruce. Northern Japanmarker, Sakhalinmarker.
* Picea jezoensis Jezo Spruce. Northeast Asia, Kamchatkamarker south to Japanmarker.
* Picea koraiensis Korean Spruce. Koreamarker, northeast Chinamarker.
* Picea koyamae Koyama's Spruce. Japanmarker (mountains).
* Picea mariana Black Spruce. Northern North America.
* Picea meyeri Meyer's Spruce.
* Picea obovata Siberian Spruce. North Scandinavia, Siberiamarker. Often treated as a variant of P. abies (and hybridises with it) but distinct cones.
* Picea omorika Serbian Spruce. Serbiamarker; local endemic; important in horticulture.
* Picea pungens Blue Spruce or Colorado Spruce. Rocky Mountains, North America; important in horticulture.
* Picea retroflexa. Chinamarker.
* Picea rubens Red Spruce. Northeastern North America; important in forestry.


Uses

Spruces is one of the most important woods for paper manufacture, as it has long wood fibers which bind together to make strong paper. Spruces are cultivated over vast areas for this purpose.

Spruces are also popular ornamental trees in horticulture, admired for their evergreen, symmetrical narrow-conic growth habit. For the same reason, some (particularly Picea abies and P. omorika) are also extensively used as Christmas trees.

Spruce wood, often called whitewood, is used for many purposes, ranging from general construction work and crates to highly specialised uses in wooden aircraft and many musical instruments, including guitars, mandolins, cellos, violins, and the soundboard at the heart of a piano. The Wright Brothers' first aircraft was built of spruce.

Because this species has no insect or decay resistance qualities after logging, it is generally recommended for construction purposes as indoor use only (ex. indoor drywall framing).

This wood left outside can not be expected to last more than 12–18 months depending on the type of climate it is exposed to. It is commonly referred to as several different names which include North American timber, SPF (spruce, pine, fir) and whitewood.

The resin was used in the manufacture of pitch in the past (before the use of petrochemicals); the scientific name Picea is generally thought to be derived from Latin pix, pitch (though other etymologies have been suggested).

The leaves and branches, or the essential oils, can be used to brew spruce beer . The tips from the needles can be used to make spruce tip syrup .Native Americans in North America use the thin, pliable roots of some species for weaving baskets and for sewing together pieces of birch bark for canoes. See also Kiidk'yaas for an unusual golden Sitka Spruce sacred to the Haida people. Native Americans in New England also used the sap to make a gum which was used for various reasons, and which was the basis of the first commercial production of chewing gum .

In survival situations spruce needles can be directly ingested or boiled into a tea . This replaces large amounts of vitamin C. Also, water is stored in a spruce's needles, providing an alternative means of hydration . Spruce can be used as a preventative measure for scurvy in an environment where meat is the only prominent food source .

Spruce branches are also used at Aintree racecourse, Liverpool, to build several of the fences on the Grand National course. They also are used as Christmas Trees for a holiday called Christmas.

References

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