(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
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
- 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.
Plantae -- Plants
Tracheobionta -- Vascular
Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Coniferophyta – Conifers
Pinaceae – Pine family
Picea A. Dietr. –
(Bong.) Carr. – Sitka spruce
Dendrology at Virginia Tech
U.S. Department of Agriculture