Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

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wrecsvp
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Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by wrecsvp » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:47 am

Larry asked about how Black and Red Spruce needles differ, so I thought I'd post a handful of photos. I also include White Spruce, as it is abundant in the North and often ornamentally planted there.

General Differences:

Black Spruce: dark usually colourless, relatively flaky bark (can be a bit like Black Cherry). Trunks relatively slender (< 2ft DBH usually). Crown narrow, almost like Balsam Fir. Needles relatively short and blunt, can look a bit like a "succulent" plant; needle colour bluish-grayish green. Cones short, egg-shaped, often persistent on tree for a long time; bright purple before maturing. Not a "climax" forest tree, relatively shade intolerant, typically found on rather wet lowland soils but can be on higher ground (likely limited due to competition). Twigs have minute hairs.

Red Spruce: dark or reddish, somewhat flaky bark. Crown typically broad, much broader than Black Spruce and still more so than White Spruce; crown is not "bushy", sometimes appearing to have annual whorls like a pine. Old forest grown trees can aquire a crown reminiscent of White Pine or Douglas Fir. Needles a shiny yellowish-green, especially when growing in shade. Cones medium-length between short Black S and longer cones of White S; they are yellowish brown and are shed annually. Buds often reddish, small and conical, often with a few wispy scales extending beyond bud tip. Very shade-tolerant, often in "climax forests" both in over- and understory; grows from dry uplands to moist slopes to bog edges with Black Spruce (may hybridize with Black S there). Twigs have minute hairs, less so than Black Spruce.

White Spruce: bark is least flaky of the three, often with pinkish-reddish colouration/blotches. Crown width intermediate between narrow Black and broader Red S, sometimes "bushy" in appearance. Needles longer than Red or especially Black S, bluish-green. Cones longer than those of Red or especially Black Spruce, not as yellowish-brown as Red S, cones shed annually. Somewhat shade-tolerant, a bit of a generalist in habitat and can be found on many kinds of sites. Twigs hairless.
Attachments
White and Red Spruce side-by-side
White and Red Spruce side-by-side
Some recently-shed Red Spruce cones
Some recently-shed Red Spruce cones
Red Spruce foliage, especially as it appears when growing in deep shade
Red Spruce foliage, especially as it appears when growing in deep shade
Black spruce cones and foliage
Black spruce cones and foliage

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Rand
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Re: Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by Rand » Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:21 pm

Well, that's helpful seeing them side by side. Reading vague, comparative generalities in a guide book never did much for me.
Also, I see I'm not the only one who's hit on the trick of using cycling gloves in moderately cold weather.

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dbhguru
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Re: Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by dbhguru » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:14 pm

Owen,

This is an excellent comparison of the three species of spruce. You makes excellent use of digital photography. Top notch. We thank you.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by Larry Tucei » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:08 pm

Owen- Thanks so much this is very helpful. The photos are great. Larry

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wrecsvp
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Re: Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by wrecsvp » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:23 pm

My pleasure, Larry. I know it is nice to see pictures of trees that live in a different area and are hard to access regularly in person!
Owen

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Steve Galehouse
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Re: Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by Steve Galehouse » Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:39 pm

Here is a photo from central Ontario with white spruce on the left, black spruce on the right. Black spruce seems to always 'cone up' at a much smaller size and/or age, and black spruce has a more pleasant aroma.
DSCI0499.JPG
every plant is native somewhere

AccipiterGentilis
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Re: Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by AccipiterGentilis » Wed Dec 16, 2015 10:32 pm

I am confused with that photo. The two small spruces up front are the white and black spruces? I find the two species to be quite confusing when young, at times, if it cannot be distinguished by habitat. The two tree species look substantially different as they mature and typically grow in different habitats. Anyway, if you get a minute, let me know.

Dan

wisconsitom
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Re: Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by wisconsitom » Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:12 pm

Evidently, the only region where black spruce becomes dominant on relatively well-drained upland sites is NE Minnesota. In northern Wisconsin, black spruce is nearly always relegated to extremely poor, drainage-impaired sites, often in conjunction with equally stunted tamarack. Both trees can and will do much better when not found in these bogs. White spruce is indeed a generalist species, seemingly equally at home in mixed company on higher and more well-drained sites as in swamps. Seems to do about equally well in either site condition too, which is somewhat odd.

Heck, I'm all about native species, but if you really want a spruce, try Norway! Will usually outgrow them all, and in the best of them, be a more beautiful tree to boot. I do see white spruce of great aesthetic charm too however.

I know I'm a weirdo but I truly think Norway spruce should be elevated to "honorary native" status, lol! Just a great and imposing tree when at its best.

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dbhguru
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Re: Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by dbhguru » Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:55 pm

Tom,

I'm with you. I love Norways, and can't understand why some folks here in Massachusetts think they should be eliminated. I'd like to have a T-shirt with the message "I'm Bullish on Norway Spruce". Bet that would turn some heads.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Black vs Red (vs White) Spruce

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Mar 02, 2016 4:10 pm

I think there are quite a lot of norway-lovers here on the boards, to be honest. Witnessing norway spruce join white pine as one of the northeast's largest conifers is fascinating. They're not about to become problematically invasive, either, unlike the other nonnative tree species named after norway...

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