Norway Spruce (Picea abies)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Subfamily: Piceoideae
Genus: Picea

About 35; see text.

A spruce is a tree of the genus Picea (play /pˈsə/),[1] 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 metres (66–200 ft) 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).

Scientists have found Norway Spruce in the mountains in western Sweden, nicknamed Old Tjikko, which at an age of 9,550 years are claimed to be the world's oldest known living trees.[2]



DNA analyses[3][4] have shown that traditional classifications based on the morphology of needle and cone are artificial. A recent study[3] 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.


There are thirty-five named species of spruce in the world.

P. glauca sapling, Kluane National Park, Canada
Immature P. mariana cones, Ouimet Canyon, Ontario, Canada
P. pungens cone and foliage
  • Clade I
  • Clade II
  • Clade III
  • Clade IV
  • Clade V



P. abies wood

Spruce is useful as a building wood, commonly referred to by several different names including North American timber, SPF (spruce, pine, fir) and whitewood. Spruce wood is used for many purposes, ranging from general construction work and crates to highly specialised uses in wooden aircraft, and as a tonewood in many musical instruments, including guitars, mandolins, cellos, violins, and the soundboard at the heart of a piano and the harp. The Wright brothers' first aircraft, the Flyer, was built of spruce.[5]

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). Spruce wood, when left outside can not be expected to last more than 12–18 months depending on the type of climate it is exposed to.


Spruce is one of the most important woods for paper uses, as it has long wood fibres which bind together to make strong paper. The fibres are thin walled and collapses to thin bands upon drying. Spruces are commonly used in mechanical pulping as they are easily bleached. Together with northern pines northern spruces are commonly used to make NBSK. Spruces are cultivated over vast areas as pulpwood.

Food and medicine

The leaves and branches, or the essential oils, can be used to brew spruce beer[clarification needed]. The tips from the needles can be used to make spruce tip syrup[clarification needed]. 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.[6] In survival situations spruce needles can be directly ingested or boiled into a tea.[7] This replaces large amounts of vitamin C. Also, water is stored in a spruce's needles, providing an alternative means of hydration[clarification needed]. Spruce can be used as a preventative measure for scurvy in an environment where meat is the only prominent food source[clarification needed].

Other uses

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).

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.

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 branches are also used at Aintree racecourse, Liverpool, to build several of the fences on the Grand National course. It is also used to make sculptures and Christmas trees.


Picea used in coat-of-arms of Kuhmo, Finland

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.[8] According to a different theory, some suggest that it may however be a direct loanword from a Polish expression [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 would pick up the expression from them.


  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ Swedish Spruce Is World's Oldest Tree: Scientific American Podcast
  3. ^ a b Jin-Hua Ran, Xiao-Xin Wei, Xiao-Quan Wang (2006). "Molecular phylogeny and biogeography of Picea (Pinaceae): implications for phylogeographical studies using cytoplasmic haplotypes" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 41 (2): 405–419. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.05.039. PMID 16839785. http://lseb.ibcas.ac.cn/oldzjxx/wangxq/pdf/Picea.pdf. 
  4. ^ Aðalsteinn Sigurgeirsson & Alfred E. Szmidt (1993). "Phylogenetic and biogeographic implications of chloroplast DNA variation in Picea". Nordic Journal of Botany 13 (3): 233–246. doi:10.1111/j.1756-1051.1993.tb00043.x. 
  5. ^ "Milestones of Flight - 1903 Wright Flyer" - Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
  6. ^ History of Vending Machines and Chewing Gum
  7. ^ The healing trees / Spruce
  8. ^ Harper, Douglas. spruce. Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed 8 May 2010.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Spruce — (spr[udd]s), n. [OE. Spruce or Pruse, Prussia, Prussian. So named because it was first known as a native of Prussia, or because its sprouts were used for making, spruce beer. Cf. Spruce beer, below, {Spruce}, a.] 1. (Bot.) Any coniferous tree of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Spruce — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Richard Spruce (1817–1893), englischer Botaniker und Naturforscher Spruce bezeichnet folgende Orte in den Vereinigten Staaten Spruce (Michigan) Spruce (Nevada) Spruce (Wisconsin) Spruce Island, Insel des… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • spruce — ● spruce nom masculin (anglais spruce, sapin) Bois de certains épicéas d Amérique du Nord. ⇒SPRUCE, subst. masc. BOT. Épicéa d Amérique du Nord. Des pins rachitiques, de l espèce appelée spruce par les Anglais (CHATEAUBR., Mél. littér., 1826, p.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Spruce — (spr[udd]s), a. [Compar. {Sprucer} (spr[udd] s[ e]r); superl. {Sprucest} (spr[udd] s[e^]st).] [Perhaps fr. spruce a sort of leather from Prussia, which was an article of finery. See {Spruce}, n.] 1. Neat, without elegance or dignity; smart; trim; …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • spruce — ‘neat’ [16] and spruce the tree [17] are completely different words, of course, but they could have a common origin – in Spruce, the old English name for Prussia. Spruce the tree was originally the spruce fir, literally the ‘Prussian fir’. And it …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • spruce — ‘neat’ [16] and spruce the tree [17] are completely different words, of course, but they could have a common origin – in Spruce, the old English name for Prussia. Spruce the tree was originally the spruce fir, literally the ‘Prussian fir’. And it …   Word origins

  • spruce — Ⅰ. spruce [1] ► ADJECTIVE ▪ neat and smart. ► VERB (spruce up) ▪ make smarter. ORIGIN perhaps from SPRUCE(Cf. ↑spruce) in the obsolete sense Prussian , in the phrase spruce leather jerkin. Ⅱ …   English terms dictionary

  • spruce — spruce1 [spro͞os] n. [ME Spruce, for Pruce, Prussia < OFr < ML Prussia: prob. because the tree was first known as a native of Prussia] 1. any of a genus (Picea) of evergreen trees of the pine family, having slender needles that are rhombic… …   English World dictionary

  • Spruce — Spruce, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Spruced} (spr[udd]st); p. pr. & vb. n. {Sprucing} (spr[udd] s[i^]ng).] To dress with affected neatness; to trim; to make spruce; often used with up; as, to spruce up the house for Company. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Spruce — Spruce, v. i. To dress one s self with affected neatness; as, to spruce up. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • spruce up — (someone/something) to improve the appearance of someone or something. She needed to spruce up her image so she bought tons of new clothes and got a great new hairstyle. The city has to spruce itself up for the Olympics next year …   New idioms dictionary

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