The Sitka spruce prefers the cool, foggy environment of a maritime climate with abundant moisture throughout the year, relatively mild winters and cool summers. The Sitka spruce weevil attack the terminal leaders of Sitka spruce when it is grown away from the foggy coastal environment. This damage kills the tops of the growing young trees and causes them to be formed like bushes.
The Sitka spruce is one of the hardiest trees, and it can grow in poor soils and on exposed sites where few other trees can grow successfully. Its understory usually consists of thick, shade-loving ferns, trees and shrubs, making it the ideal habitat for a large variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
You’ll find the Sitka spruce in moist, well-drained sites along the coast, seldom more than 20 miles inland. In fact, its needles and bark are resistant to salt spray.
The largest of the spruces, the Sitka can grow 125-180 feet tall and 3-5 feet in diameter, with an open crown of somewhat pendulous branches. Its cones are very distinctive. One to 4 inches in length, rounded and irregularly toothed, they hang downward with very thin scales. Its bark is gray and smooth on small trunks, turning to a dark purplish-brown on older trunks.
A truly renaissance tree
Beautiful stands of Sitka spruce frame our coastline, adding to its beauty and mystique. Its wood is very strong for its weight, which has led to its many specialty uses in aircraft frames, racing shells, ladders and folding bleachers. It’s not surprising that its lumber is also valued for construction requiring lightweight strength. The wood of the Sitka spruce possesses outstanding resonant qualities, and it is used in pianos, organs, guitars and violins. Its long fibers also make it second only to the western hemlock as a papermaking wood. When it comes to trees, the Sitka spruce is your classic overachiever.
“Most of the original Sitka spruce forest in the river valley was removed by the 1950s to establish homesteads or was clear-cut back when they didn’t replant,” said Kevin Fetherston of R2 Resource Consultants.
Seed collected from different parts of the range of a tree species is tested for suitability at different locations in provenance trials. Seed from certain provenances is in short supply. Some provenances of British Columbia seed, notably Douglas-fir, Sitka spruce, grand fir, and lodgepole pine, are famous or infamous in Europe for their superior or inferior characteristics. Historical lack of control over seed supply and subsequent poor plantation performance gave rise to the current tight restrictions and government control on seed collection and storage and allocation on Crown lands in Canada.
Often shade-tolerant conifers such as western hemlock and Sitka spruce are found scattered under the canopy of the alder. Salmonberry is one of the most common shrubs associated with an alder forest. Elderberry and blackberry are also found, making it an ideal place for many mammals and birds.
But much has involved non-native species, such as spruces, pines and larch: Picea abies, Picea sitchensis, Pinus sylvestris, Pinus contorta and Larix sibirica, and that's the main cause of controversy. Many conservationists are against the use of non-native tree species for afforestation.
engelmannii Parry ex Engelmann), white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss), black spruce (Picea mariana (Miller) Britton), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bongard) Carri�re), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Douglas ex Loudon), western white pine (Pinus monticola Douglas ex D.