USA Official Tree of Alaska

Alaska Official State Tree (AK)

Sitka SpruceTree, a state symbol

(Pinaceae Picea sitchensis)
Adopted in 1962.

Sitka spruce ,Picea sitchensis, known also as tideland spruce, coast spruce, and yellow spruce, is the largest of the world's spruces and is one of the most prominent forest trees in stands along the northwest coast of North America.  It was adopted as Alaska's state tree in 1962.


This coastal species is seldom found far from tidewater, where moist maritime air and summer fogs help to maintain humid conditions necessary for growth. Throughout most of its range from northern California to Alaska, Sitka spruce is associated with western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) in dense stands where growth rates are among the highest in North America. It is a valuable commercial timber species for lumber, pulp, and many special uses (15,16).


Sitka Spruce, coast spruce, tideland spruce, tidewater spruce
Picea is Latin for pitch, and sitchensis refers to Sitka, Alaska, the area where the tree was first sighted by Europeans. ”Spruce"in Henry VIII's time, meant smart, dapper, or in fashion. By the 19th century ‘spruce up' meant to tidy, and was also a reference to anything from Prussia, which is where spruce (not the Sitka Spruce) originated.


Usually growing to about 70m, the Sitka Spruce has distinctive 4-sided needles, which are somewhat flat, and very pointed and sharp. These needles are hard to roll between the thumb and forefinger. They are yellowish or bluish green with a whitish bottom. The seed cones have jagged, irregularily toothed scales.

  • Leaf: Single, linear, spirally arranged; 1 inch long with a very sharp tip, needles point perpendicular and forward on the twig; yellow-green above with white bloom below. Each needle borne on a raised, woody peg (sterigma).
  • Flower: Monoecious; male cones erect or pendent; female cones green to purple and borne near the top of the tree.
  • Fruit: Oblong cones, 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long with thin, woody, spirally arranged scales that have very thin, notched edges and are tan when mature. Cones ripen in one growing season and occur near the top of the tree.
  • Twig: Current year's twigs are moderately stout and yellow-brown to orange-brown. All twigs are covered with numerous distinct woody pegs (sterigmata).
  • Bark: On young trees, bark is thin and scaly, usually gray. On mature trees it's usually less than 1 inch thick; gray to brown and scaly.
  • Form: Sitka spruce is the largest of all spruces. It commonly is 125 to 180 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet in diameter, but can be much larger. Crown is open with somewhat pendulous branches; branches commonly reach the ground and dead branches are retained for a long time. Base of trees are commonly swollen and buttressed.
Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Coniferophyta – Conifers
Class Pinopsida –
Order Pinales –
Family Pinaceae – Pine family
Genus Picea A. Dietr. – spruce
Species Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr. – Sitka spruce


Dendrology at Virginia Tech
U.S. Department of Agriculture