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Overview

Brief Summary

Pinaceae -- Pine family

    Leslie A. Viereck and William F. Johnston

    Black spruce (Picea mariana), also called bog spruce, swamp  spruce, and shortleaf black spruce, is a wide-ranging, abundant conifer of  the northern parts of North America. Its wood is yellow-white in color,  relatively light in weight, and strong. Black spruce is the most important  pulpwood species of Canada and is also commercially important in the Lake  States, especially Minnesota.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Leslie A. Viereck

Source: Silvics of North America

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Picea mariana, generally called black spruce but also known as bog spruce, swamp spruce, and shortleaf black spruce, is a wide-ranging, abundant small to medium-sized conifer tree of northern and boreal North America. It is the most important pulpwood species of Canada and is also commercially important in the Lake States, especially Minnesota.

Black spruce ranges in a broad band from northern Massachusetts to northern Labrador on the Atlantic coast, west across Canada to the west coast of Alaska. Its southern limits consist of isolated patches in northern New Jersey, western Connecticut, Pennsylvania, southern Michigan, southern Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, and southern Manitoba; west across south-central Saskatchewan, Alberta, and central British Columbia. Its northern limit across Canada and Alaska is about that of the northern tree line, although it alternates with white spruce (Picea glauca), tamarack (Larix laricina), and balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) as the tree-line species at different points.

Black spruce is found from sea level in eastern and northern Canada and western Alaska to 1830 m (6,000 ft) in northern Alberta. It is considered to be a tree of interior lowlands, however, and usually grows at between 150 and 760 m (500 and 2,500 ft). In the mountains of Alaska, Yukon Territory, and Northwest Territories, it is often the tree line species at elevations of 300 to 1220 m (1,000 to 4,000 ft). Local topography and drainage seem to be more important than elevation in determining the range of black spruce.

Black spruce is often a post-fire pioneer on both uplands and peatlands, and fire usually results in the immediate reestablishment of black spruce as long as a seed source is available. Black spruce often dominates fire-prone areas, such as upland ridges, because it produces seed at an early age. It also becomes dominant on poor peatland (bog) sites where it has little competition. Tamarack and black spruce are the first trees to invade the sedge mat in filled-lake bogs.

The principal commercial use of black spruce both in Canada and the United States is for making high quality pulp with balanced strength properties, but it is commercially harvested only in a small portion of its geographical range. Black spruce has a strong, relatively light-weight, yellow-white wood that is also used for lumber and other products. Black spruce Christmas trees were harvested in considerable numbers from natural stands until fairly recently, especially on poor sites in Minnesota. Historically, black spruce has provided some highly specialized products, a few of which are still used occasionally: healing salves from spruce gum (the exuded resin); beverages from twigs and needles; aromatic distillations from needles; and binding material ("wattape")—from long, split roots—for birchbark canoes.

Black spruce is a primary source of food and cover for the spruce grouse, and provides habitat for high-density summer populations of birds including the ruby-crowned kinglet, magnolia warbler, Cape May warbler, and ovenbird. Birds such as the pine grosbeak, pine siskin, and crossbills commonly feed on black spruce seeds.

Excerpted and edited from Viereck and Johnston 1990.

  • Viereck, L.A., and W.F. Johnston 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.) B. S. P. Black Spruce. In Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, tech. coords. 1990. Silvics of North America: Vol. 1. Conifers. Agriculture Handbook 654. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. Available online from http://na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/picea/mariana.htm.
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Leslie A. Viereck and William F. Johnston

Supplier: Jacqueline Courteau

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Comprehensive Description

Description

    General: Trees to 25 meters tall (often shrub-like near tree-line), the crown narrowly conic to spire-like or “irregularly subcylindric;” branches short and drooping, frequently layering; twigs not pendent, slender, yellow-brown, hairy; bark gray-brown. Needles evergreen, 0.6-1.5(-2) cm long, 4-angled, stiff and blunt-tipped, waxy and pale blue-green. Seed cones 1.5-2.5(-3.5) cm long, fusiform, purple-brown at maturity; cone scales fan-shaped, broadest near apex, 8-12 mm long, rigid, margin at apex irregularly toothed. Native. The common name refers to the dark (blackish) foliage.

    Variation within the species: Black spruce shows north-south clinal variation in photoperiodism, productivity, and other traits, and discrete variants are not recognized at present, except for one. Fernald (1950) recognized “depressed” and “trailing” alpine forms at the rank of forma, but Roland and Smith (1969) and Rouleau and Lamoureux (1992) have treated them as var. semiprostrata. These occur in Keewatin, Quebec, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia:

  • Picea mariana var. mariana

  • Picea mariana var. semiprostrata (Peck) Teeri

  • Synonym: Picea mariana forma semiprostrata (Peck) Blake

However, these are of little significance to NRCS and conservation personnel in the United States.

Black spruce hybridizes with red spruce (Picea rubens) on disturbed sites in eastern Canada and with white spruce in a few places. Reports of natural hybrids between black spruce and white spruce apparently remain unverified.

Distribution: Black spruce occurs across the northern range of North America, from Alaska, Yukon, and British Columbia eastward to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Québec. It also occurs in the northeastern United States and sporadically in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

Bog spruce, swamp spruce, shortleaf black spruce

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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© NatureServe

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Occurrence in North America

     AK  CT  ME  MA  MI  MN  NH  NJ  NY  PA
     RI  VT  WI  AB  BC  LB  MB  NB  NF  NT
     NS  ON  PE  PQ  SK  YT

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More info for the term: tree

Black spruce is a wide-ranging and abundant tree.  It is distributed
transcontinentally across northern North America.  It grows from
Newfoundland and northern Quebec, west across northern Canada to the
west coast of Alaska, south to central British Columbia, south and east
to central Minnesota, and east to Rhode Island and Massachusetts [41].
Black spruce occurs in isolated patches along the southern portion of
its range in southern Wisconsin, southern Michigan, Pennsylvania, and
New Jersey [65].
  • 41.  Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native        and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p.  [2952]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]

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Black spruce ranges in a broad band from northern Massachusetts to  northern Labrador on the Atlantic coast, west across Canada to the west  coast of Alaska. Its southern limits consist of isolated patches in  northern New Jersey, western Connecticut, Pennsylvania, southern Michigan,  southern Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, and southern Manitoba; west across  south-central Saskatchewan, Alberta, and central British Columbia. Its  northern limit across Canada and Alaska is about that of the northern tree  line, although it alternates with white spruce (Picea glauca), tamarack  (Larix laricina), and balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) as  the tree line species at different points.

    The commercial range of black spruce is considerably less than its  geographic range.

     
- The native range of black spruce.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Leslie A. Viereck

Source: Silvics of North America

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Adaptation

In muskegs, bogs, bottomlands, and relatively dry peatlands; at 0-1500 meters. Black spruce usually grows on wet organic soils but productive stands also grow over deep humus, clays, loams, sands, coarse till, and shallow soil mantles. It is often a postfire pioneer on both uplands and peatlands. In fire-prone areas, such as upland ridges, fire usually results in the immediate reestablishment and eventual dominance of black spruce, because it produces seed at an early age.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Trees to 25m (often shrublike); trunk to 0.25m diam.; crown narrowly conic to spirelike. Bark gray-brown. Branches short and drooping, frequently layering; twigs not pendent, rather slender, yellow-brown, pubescent. Buds gray-brown, ca. 3mm, apex acute. Leaves 0.6--1.5(--2)cm, 4-angled in cross section, rigid, pale blue-green, glaucous, bearing stomates on all surfaces, apex mostly blunt-tipped. Seed cones 1.5--2.5(--3.5)cm; scales fan-shaped, broadest near apex, 8--12 ´ 8--12mm, rigid, margin at apex irregularly toothed. 2 n =24.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Description

More info for the terms: shrub, swamp, tree

Black spruce is a native, coniferous, slow-growing, small upright tree
or dwarf shrub.  Trees have a straight bole with little taper, and a
narrow, pointed crown made up of short, compact, drooping branches with
upturned ends [35].  Throughout much of its range, trees average 30 to
50 feet (9-15 m) in height and 6 to 10 inches (15-25 cm) in diameter at
maturity [35].  In Alaska, black spruce is occasionally found as a
medium-sized tree up to 60 feet (18 m) tall and 9 inches (23 cm) in
diameter, but it is usually only 15 to 30 feet (4.5-9 m) tall and 3 to 6
inches (7.6-15.2 cm) in diameter [66].  Growth is quite variable
depending upon site conditions.  In swamps in northeastern Minnesota,
black spruce showed progressively slower growth rates from the border
toward the center of swamps.  Eighty-year-old trees at a swamp border
were, on average, 60 feet (18 m) tall, but only 120 feet (37 m) away at
the center of the swamp trees were only 20 feet (6 m) tall [40].

Needles are 0.5-inch-long (1.2 cm), stiff, four-sided, dark bluish green
[35].  The bark is thin, scaly, and grayish brown.  The root system is
shallow and wide spreading.  Black spruce is very susceptible to
windthrow except in the densest stands.  Most roots are found in the
upper 8 inches (20 cm) of the organic soil horizons [65].  Cones occur
in dense clusters in the upper part of the crown.  They are 0.6- to
1.25-inch-long (1.5-3.2 cm), nearly round or egg shaped, dull gray or
blackish, and remain on the tree for several years [66].

In the extreme northern portion of its range, trees may be only 10 to 20
feet (3-6 m) tall and 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm) in diameter when 100 to
200 years old [27].  In these extreme environments, needles and cones
may be only one-half of their normal size [35].  Black spruce may form
krummholz in the far north; here plant height equals the average snow
coverage [20].
  • 20.  Elliott-Fisk, Deborah L. 1988. The boreal forest. In: Barbour, Michael        G.; Billings, William Dwight, eds. North American terrestrial        vegetation. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press: 33-62.        [13878]
  • 27.  Fowells, H. A., compiler. 1965. Silvics of forest trees of the United        States. Agric. Handb. 271. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 762 p.  [12442]
  • 35.  Hosie, R. C. 1969. Native trees of Canada. 7th ed. Ottawa, ON: Canadian        Forestry Service, Department of Fisheries and Forestry. 380 p.  [3375]
  • 40.  LeBarron, Russell K. 1948. Silvicultural management of black spruce in        Minnesota. Circular No. 791. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture. 60 p.  [13554]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]
  • 66.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1972. Alaska trees and        shrubs. Agric. Handb. 410. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 265 p.  [6884]

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Physical Description

Tree, Evergreen, Monoecious, Habit erect, Trees without or rarely having knees, Tree with bark rough or scaly, Young shoots 3-dimensional, Buds resinous, Buds not resinous, Leaves needle-like, Leaves alternate, Needle-like leaf margins entire (use magnification), Leaf apex obtuse, Leaves < 5 cm long, Leaves < 10 cm long, Leaves blue-green, Needle-like leaves 4-angled, Needle-like leaves not twisted, Needle-like leaf habit erect, Needle-like leaf habit drooping, Needle-like leaves per fascicle mostly 1, Needle-like leaf sheath early deciduous, Needle-like leaf sheath persistent, Twigs pubescent, Twigs viscid, Twigs not viscid, Twigs with peg-like projections or large fascicles after needles fall, Berry-like cones orange, Woody seed cones < 5 cm long, Bracts of seed cone included, Seeds brown, Seeds winged, Seeds unequally winged, Seed wings prominent, Seed wings equal to or broader than body.
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Stephen C. Meyers

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Abies mariana Miller, Gard. Dict. ed. 8, Abies no. 5. 1768; Picea brevifolia Peck; P. mariana var. brevifolia (Peck) Rehder; P. nigra (Aiton) Link; Pinus nigra Aiton
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Picea mariana occurs mostly in bogs or swamps and on permafrost sites ('muskeg'), at elevations between <150 m and 800 m a.s.l., occasionally in western mountains to 1,500 m or 1,800 m a.s.l., on a variety of acid soils, often on peat, in the south predominantly so. The climate is cold subhumid, but with a wide amplitude. Annual precipitation varies from 200 to 1,400 mm, the growing season from 25 to 160 days. Pure stands occur mostly on Sphagnum peat and on permafrost, elsewhere it is usually mixed with Picea glauca, Pinus banksiana and Abies balsamea; A. lasiocarpa and Pinus contorta in upland regions, and Populus tremuloides after fire. In the SE of its range Picea mariana occurs in a mixed conifer-angiosperm swamp type with Chamaecyparis thyoides, Larix laricina, Abies balsamea, Populus balsamifera, Acer rubrum, Ulmus americana, Fraxinus nigra, and other broad-leaved species.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Source: IUCN

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Habitat characteristics

More info for the terms: bog, cover, lichens, organic soils, peat, shrub, shrubs, tree

Black spruce grows on both lowland and upland sites.  At the southern
portion of its range it is found primarily on wet organic soils, but
farther north its abundance on uplands increases.  In the Lake States
and in New England, black spruce is most abundant in peat bogs and
swamps, but is also common on transitional sites between peatlands and
uplands.  In these areas it is rare on uplands, except in isolated areas
of northern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan [36].  In
Alaska, black spruce occupies poorly drained areas, such as cold wet
flats, muskegs, and bogs, but is also common on north-facing slopes
within 5 miles (8 km) of major rivers, and on upland slopes of all
exposures more than 5 miles away from major rivers where white spruce is
absent [25,66].  It often dominates sites in Alaska that are underlain
by permafrost.

Stand characteristics and associated trees:  Because fires occur at
frequent intervals in black spruce forests, most stands are even-aged
[see Plant Adaptations to Fire].  Black spruce commonly grows in pure
stands on organic soils and in mixed stands on mineral soils [65].  On
loamy or clayey moist uplands throughout the boreal region, associates
include white spruce, quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), balsam fir,
paper birch (Betula papyrifera), and tamarack (Larix laricina) [27].  On
organic sites in the Lake States and New England, black spruce mainly
grows in pure stands, but it is also found in mixed conifer swamps with
tamarack, northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis), balsam fir, and
eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) [17,36].  Associated trees on mineral
soil sites in this region include quaking aspen, paper birch, white
spruce, and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) [36].  Jack pine is an
especially common associate on dry, sandy and rocky sites [38].  Other
common associates in the Lake States, especially in transitional areas
between organic soil lowlands and mineral soil uplands, include black
ash (Fraxinus nigra), red maple (Acer rubrum), American elm (Ulmus
americana), balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), eastern white pine, and
red pine (Pinus resinosa) [36].  In northern New England and
southeastern Canada, black spruce is sometimes associated with red
spruce [38].  In western Canada, it may be found with lodgepole pine
(Pinus contorta), subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), and white spruce
[27].

Understory:  A conspicuous characteristic of black spruce stands is a
nearly continuous ground cover of feather mosses, sphagnum mosses,
and/or reindeer lichens.  Reindeer lichens tend to dominate the ground
cover in northern open black spruce woodlands.  Associated shrubs in
bogs and swamps include Labrador-tea (Ledum groenlandicum), leatherleaf
(Chamaedaphne calyculata), kalmia (Kalmia spp.), downy andromeda
(Andromeda glaucophylia), bog blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), mountain
cranberry (V. vitis-idaea), shrub birches (Betula glandulosa, B.
pumila), and creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula).  In the Lake
States, speckled alder and red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) are the
principal shrubs in some black spruce swamps.  Upland shrubs in the East
include mountain maple (Acer spicatum), beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta),
alders (Alnus spp.), and red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) [27,36,65].

Forest floor:  Stands in Alaska typically have a thick organic mat.
Live moss-organic matter may be up to 20 inches (50 cm) thick [60].
Forest floor temperatures are typically lower and moisture content
higher in black spruce forests than in white spruce, paper birch,
quaking aspen, or balsam fir forests [59].

Soils and landforms:  Black spruce is tolerant of nutrient-poor soils.
It is commonly found on poorly drained acidic peatlands [17,20].  On
peatlands in Minnesota, black spruce grows best on dark brown to
blackish, moderately decomposed peat that contains much partially
decomposed wood [27].  Poor growth occurs on muskegs with thick
accumulations of poorly decomposed yellowish-brown sphagnum peat.  In
the northeastern United States, black spruce commonly grows on peat
soils that are deeper than 12 inches (30 cm) [6].  On the Laurentian
Shield in Minnesota, black spruce is frequently found on 10 feet (3 m)
of peat, and sometimes on peat 60 feet (18 m) deep [27].  On mineral
soil sites in northern Minnesota and adjacent Ontario, black spruce
occurs on gravelly and bouldery loams and shallow soils over bedrock
[27].  Throughout much of Canada, upland black spruce stands tend to
occur on moist to somewhat wet clay loams and clays on long gentle
slopes and lowlands [27].  In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and parts of
Quebec, it occurs on sandy and gravelly outwash plains, river terraces,
eskers, and related landforms [27].  In Alaska, black spruce stands
underlain by permafrost tend to have shallow, mineral soil profiles
[59].  Permafrost tables under black spruce stands in Alaska are often
as shallow as 12 inches (30 cm) [18].

Elevation:  Black spruce is a tree of northern interior lowlands.
Throughout its range it is generally found at elevations between 500 and
2,500 feet (152-762 m) [27].
  • 6.  Benzie, John W.; Blum, Barton M. 1989. Silviculture of northeastern        conifers. In: Burns, Russell M., compiler. The scientific basis for        silvicultural and management decisions in the National Forest System.        Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-55. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 18-30.  [10243]
  • 17.  Damman, Antoni W. H.; French, Thomas W. 1987. The ecology of peat bogs        of the glaciated northeastern United States: a community profile.        Biological Report 85(7.16). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the        Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Research and Development, National        Wetlands Research Center. 100 p.  [9238]
  • 18.  Dyrness, C. T.; Viereck, L. A.; Van Cleve, K. 1986. Fire in taiga        communities of interior Alaska. In: Forest ecosystems in the Alaskan        taiga. New York: Springer-Verlag: 74-86.  [3881]
  • 20.  Elliott-Fisk, Deborah L. 1988. The boreal forest. In: Barbour, Michael        G.; Billings, William Dwight, eds. North American terrestrial        vegetation. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press: 33-62.        [13878]
  • 25.  Foote, M. Joan. 1983. Classification, description, and dynamics of plant        communities after fire in the taiga of interior Alaska. Res. Pap.        PNW-307. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,        Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 108 p.  [7080]
  • 27.  Fowells, H. A., compiler. 1965. Silvics of forest trees of the United        States. Agric. Handb. 271. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 762 p.  [12442]
  • 36.  Tuskan, Gerald A.; Laughlin, Kevin. 1991. Windbreak species performance        and management practices as reported by Montana and North Dakota        landowners. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 46(3): 225-228.        [15084]
  • 38.  Johnston, William F.; Smith, Thomas M. 1983. Black spruce. In: Burns,        Russell M., tech. comp. Silvicultural systems for the major forest types        of the United States. Agric. Handb. No. 445. Washington, DC: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 96-98.  [13821]
  • 59.  Van Cleve, K.; Dyrness, C. T.; Viereck, L. A.; [and others]
  • 60.  Viereck, Leslie A. 1973. Wildfire in the taiga of Alaska. Quaternary        Research. 3: 465-495.  [7247]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]
  • 66.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1972. Alaska trees and        shrubs. Agric. Handb. 410. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 265 p.  [6884]

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the terms: climax, cover, lichens, shrub

Climax black spruce forests are widespread across boreal North America.
Six generalized climax types have been outlined [22].  These are:

 (1)  Black spruce-feather moss - These are well-stocked to dense spruce
stands with a well-developed carpet of feather mosses (Pleurozium
schreberi, Hylocomium splendens, Ptilium crista-castrensis).  This type
is most common at the southern and central portion of black spruce's
range.

 (2)  Black spruce-lichen - These are open woodlands with a
well-developed carpet of reindeer lichens (Cladina spp.).  This type
occurs along the northern portion of black spruce's range in the
forest-tundra transition.  It remains an open woodland due to the
unfavorable climate.

 (3)  Black spruce-dwarf shrub - These are closed black spruce stands
with a well-developed ericaceous dwarf shrub layer, and forest floor
dominated by mosses and reindeer lichens.  This type occurs in the
central and southern boreal forests. 

 (4)  Black spruce-sphagnum - this type is made up of open to closed
pure black spruce stands on organic or wet mineral soils with
well-developed ericaceous dwarf shrub cover and sphagnum mosses
(Sphagnum spp.) dominating the forest floor.  This type occurs
throughout the range of black spruce.

 (5)  Black spruce-speckled alder (Alnus rugosa) - These are pure or
mixed stands on areas where the water table is near the surface during
the growing season.  Stands have well-developed tall shrub and
herbaceous layers.

 (6)  Black spruce-sedge - These are very open stands of stunted trees
on wet sites with the ground dominated by sedges and grasses and
well-developed moss layers (but little or no sphagnum mosses).  This
type is widely distributed throughout boreal regions.

Published classifications listing black spruce as an indicator or
dominant part of the vegetation in community types (cts) or ecosystem
associations (eas) are presented below:

Area                        Classification     Authority

AK                          general veg. cts   Viereck & Dyrness 1980
interior AK                 postfire cts       Foote 1983
MN: Boundary Waters
     Conoe Area             general veg. cts   Ohman & Ream 1971

AB                          general veg. cts   Moss 1955
w-c AB                      forest cts         Corns 1983
w-c AB                      forest eas         Corns & Annas 1986
BC: Prince Rupert Forest
     Region, Interior
     Cedar-Hemlock Zone     general veg. eas   Haeussler & others 1984
    Prince Rupert Forest
     Region, Subboreal
     Spruce Zone            general veg. eas   Pojar & others 1984
ON                          forest eas         Jones & others 1983
  • 22.  Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and        Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p.  [905]

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

     1  Jack pine
     5  Balsam fir
    12  Black spruce
    13  Black spruce - tamarack
    16  Aspen
    18  Paper birch
    32  Red spruce
    33  Red spruce - balsam fir
    35  Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir
    37  Northern white cedar
    38  Tamarack
    39  Black ash - American elm - red maple
   107  White spruce
   201  White spruce
   202  White spruce - paper birch
   203  Balsam poplar
   204  Black spruce
   217  Aspen
   251  White spruce - aspen
   252  Paper birch
   253  Black spruce - white spruce
   254  Black spruce - paper birch

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

   K093  Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
   K094  Conifer bog
   K095  Great Lakes pine forest
   K096  Northeastern spruce - fir forest

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

   FRES10  White - red - jack pine
   FRES11  Spruce - fir
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch
   FRES19  Aspen - birch
   FRES23  Fir - spruce

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Soils and Topography

Black spruce usually grows on wet organic soils, but productive stands  are found on a variety of soil types from deep humus through clays, loams,  sands, coarse till, boulder pavements, and shallow soil mantles over  bedrock. In the Lake States and adjacent Canadian provinces, it grows on  soils of the order Histosols: peat bogs and swamps that have formed on old  glacial lakebeds and in muck-filled seepages on peat deposits that range  in thickness from 0.5 to 6 m (20 in to 20 ft). The most productive black  spruce stands are on dark brown to blackish peats, which usually have a  considerable amount of decayed woody material. Stands of low productivity  are usually found on thick deposits of partially decomposed sphagnum peat.

    In central Canada, upland stands tend to be of higher quality than the  lowland peat stands. Here, podzolic soils of the order Spodosols and gley  soils of the order Inceptisols are common on gentle slopes underlain by  clay-loam or clays that have been derived from glacial tills. Many of  these clay soils are derived from calcareous materials and are neutral to  slightly alkaline in the B or C horizons. The most productive black spruce  stands are found on the better drained sites such as sandy glacial  deposits, river terraces, and outwash plains of the order Entisols,  usually in association with hardwood species.

    In the north, black spruce sites are commonly underlain by permafrost  (perennially frozen soils). Black spruce seems to be the tree species best  adapted to growing on permafrost soils because of its shallow rooting  habit. Often the annual thaw depth (active zone) may be as little as 40 cm  (16 in). In northwestern Canada, black spruce often grows in alternating  organic and mineral soil layers, on hummock-like mounds that overlie the  permafrost (57). In central Alaska, black spruce is found on permafrost  sites of shallow wind-deposited loess and on old river terraces. At tree  line, it is often found on shallow, poorly developed mineral soils. On  most black spruce sites on permafrost, wildfire results in a temporary  increase in the thaw depth.

    Black spruce is found from sea level in eastern and northern Canada and  western Alaska to 1830 m (6,000 ft) in northern Alberta. It is considered  to be a tree of interior lowlands, however, and usually grows at between  150 and 760 m (500 and 2,500 ft). In the mountains of Alaska, Yukon  Territory, and Northwest Territories, it is often the tree line species at  elevations of 300 to 1220 m (1,000 to 4,000 ft). Local topography and  drainage seem to be more important than elevation in determining the range  of black spruce.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Leslie A. Viereck

Source: Silvics of North America

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Climate

The climate for black spruce can be characterized as cold with a  moisture regime varying from humid to dry subhumid. Mean annual  temperatures range from 7° C (45° F) in the southern areas to  -11° C (13° F) near tree line in central and western Canada.  Average January temperatures range from -30° C (-22° F) in  northwestern Canada and Alaska to -6° C (21° F) at the  southeastern edge of its range. Average July temperatures range from 16°  to 24° C (60° to 76° F) in the main part of the range of  black spruce and from 10° to 27° C (50° to 80° F) in  extreme locations. The extreme low temperatures range from -62° to  -34° C (-79° to -30° F), the highs from 27° to 41°  C (80° to 105° F).

    Annual precipitation decreases from east to west. In the maritime  provinces, it may be as high as 1520 mm (60 in) and in western Alaska as  low as 150 mm (6 in), but annual precipitation ranges from 380 to 760 mm  (15 to 30 in) in most of the black spruce range. Much of the precipitation  is snowfall-from 500 cm (200 in) in eastern Canada to 100 cm (40 in) in  western Canada and central Alaska. Mean snow depths are 50 to 75 cm (20 to  30 in) over most of the range but may be more than 100 cm (40 in) in parts  of Quebec and Labrador, where snow may persist into late May or early  June.

    Maximum length of days during the growing season varies from continuous  north of the Arctic Circle to about 16 hours near the southern limits of  the range. The frost-free period varies from 140 days in the southeastern  portions of the range to 60 days or less near tree line.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Leslie A. Viereck

Source: Silvics of North America

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Habitat & Distribution

Muskegs, bogs, bottomlands, dry peatlands; 0--1500m; St. Pierre and Miquelon; Alta., B.C., Man., N.B., Nfld., N.W.T., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que., Sask., Yukon; Alaska, Conn., Maine, Mass., Mich., Minn., N.H., N.J., N.Y., Pa., R.I., Vt., Wis.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Dispersal

Establishment

Black spruce may produce a few cones as early as 10 years of age, but maximum production occurs between 100 and 200 years. Heavy seed years occur at intervals of 2-6 years and peak crops every 4 years over most of the range. Fires open the cones and accelerate seed release for periods of 60 days to 2-3 years, depending on fire intensity. Viable seed may be dispersed from a cone for up to 25 years, providing a seed supply after fires occur.

Sphagnum mosses can provide a continuously moist seedbed for black spruce, but growth of seedling growth may be slow here because of inadequate nutrients. Feathermosses may provide a suitable seedbed during wet years but may dry out before penetration by the seedling root. Moist mineral soils usually provide good seedbeds, but exposed mineral soil may be too waterlogged or subject to frost heaving in some low-lying areas. Fires that completely remove the surface organic layer usually provide good seedbeds. Seedling mortality seems to be highest on burned duff and lowest on moss and mineral soil surfaces with adequate moisture. Seedlings develop in as little as 10% of full light intensity, but survival and growth are much better in the open.

Layering is an important means of reproduction in black spruce on some sites, especially where rapidly growing mosses cover lower branches. Such layering develops most abundantly in the more open-grown stands and less frequently in dense stands with higher wood volume. It also is common at tree line, probably as a result of depression of the lower branches by snow, and accounts for the presence of "candelabrum" spruce, a circular clump originating from one individual with the tallest tree in the center.

The average maximum age for black spruce is about 200 years, but ages up to 300 years have been reported.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Associations

Associated Forest Cover

Black spruce most commonly grows as pure stands on organic soils and as  mixed stands on mineral soil sites. It is a major component of forest  types with white spruce, balsam fir (Abies balsamea), jack pine  (Pinus banksiana), and tamarack and also grows in association with  paper birch (Betula papyrifera), lodgepole pine (P. contorta),  quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), balsam poplar, northern  white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis), black ash (Fraxinus nigra),  American elm (Ulmus americana), and red maple (Acer  rubrum). In the southern parts of its range, black spruce is commonly  found in mixed stands with several species, especially northern  white-cedar, white spruce, balsam fir, and tamarack. In the main part of  its range, it is commonly associated with white spruce, quaking aspen,  balsam fir, paper birch, and tamarack. Jack pine is a common associate on  dry sites. At the northern and northwestern limits of the range, pure  stands are common, but black spruce is also found associated with paper  birch, quaking aspen, white spruce, and tamarack.

    Because of its broad distribution and varying ecological site  characteristics, the Black Spruce forest cover type (Society of American  Foresters Type 12, eastern, and 204, western) (11) has been divided into  six subtypes: (a) black spruce-feathermoss, most common in the southern  and central boreal forest; (b) black spruce-lichen, most abundant near the  northern limit of the boreal forest; (c) black spruce-dwarf shrub, in the  southern and central portions of the boreal forest; (d) black  spruce-sphagnum, on wet soils; (e) black spruce-speckled alder (Alnus  rugosa), on waterlogged soils with standing or slowly flowing water;  and (f) black spruce-sedge, on peatlands with minerally enriched moving  water. Black spruce is also a major component of cover types Black  Spruce-Tamarack (Type 13); Black Spruce-White Spruce (Type 253); and Black  Spruce-Paper Birch (Type 254).

    One of the most conspicuous aspects of many black spruce stands is a  nearly continuous ground cover of feathermosses (Hylocomium splendensPleurozium schreberi, and Ptilium crista-castrensis) and  sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.). On some sites, the moss layer is  replaced by nearly continuous mats of lichens, primarily species of Cladoniathis is especially typical of open stands in northern areas where the  open lichen woodland is a common vegetation type.

    The shrubs associated with black spruce change gradually from east to  west. Dominant shrubs in the eastern range include mountain maple (Acer  spicatum), beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta), speckled alder,  red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), and red raspberry (Rubus  idaeus) on better sites; and low birch (Betula pumila), bog  birch (B. glandulosa), bog-rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla),  lambkill (Kalmia angustifolia), Labrador-tea (Ledum  groenlandicum), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), and  bog-laurel (Kalmia polifolia) on the less productive peatlands. In  the western part of the range, littletree willow (Salix  arbusculoides), grayleaf willow (S. glauca), Bebb willow  (S. bebbiana), prickly rose (Rosa acicularis), American green  alder (Alnus crispa), Labrador-tea, bog blueberry (Vaccinium  uliginosum), and mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) are  the most important shrubs. The most important herbs, found over most of  the range, are panicle bluebells (Mertensia paniculata), fireweed  (Epilobium angustifolium), one-sided pyrola (Pyrola secunda),  twinflower (Linnaea borealis), bunchberry (Cornus  canadensis), wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), false  lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum canadense), starflower (Trientalis  borealis), bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis), and  sheathed cottonsedge (Eriophorum vaginatum).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Leslie A. Viereck

Source: Silvics of North America

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Diseases and Parasites

Damaging Agents

Eastern dwarfmistletoe (Arceuthobium  pusillum) is a destructive disease of black spruce in the Lake States  and eastern Canada, but it appears less often in the West and is  completely absent in northwestern Canada and Alaska (18). In most areas,  infection by mistletoe results in reduced vigor, clumped branches  (witches' brooms), and deformed trees; but in some stands it may kill many  trees. Successful control is possible by incorporating control methods in  the silvicultural management (37).

    Several rusts of the genus Chrysomyxa infect both the buds and  needles of black spruce. The infection usually remains at low levels but  occasionally becomes epidemic and causes defoliation, reduced vigor, and  even death of seedlings, saplings, and trees. The cone rust (Chrysomyxa  pirolata) often results in greatly reduced seed production but does  not kill the tree.

    Other diseases of black spruce include a needle cast fungus (Lophodermium  spp.), which may cause defoliation and death in local areas; a yellow  rust witches' broom (Chrysomyxa arctostaphyli); and a snow blight  (Lophophacidium hyperboreum), which may cause extensive damage to  black spruce growing in nurseries or young regeneration in the field.

    White pocket rots of roots and stems, most commonly Inonotus  tomentosus, occur in black spruce and may cause significant damage in  some upland stands (4,54).

    The spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana) is one of the  insects most damaging to black spruce, even though black spruce is less  susceptible than red spruce (Picea rubens), white spruce, and  balsam fir. Budworm defoliation for several years in succession may result  in moderate to severe mortality. The budworm and several other insects  often cause serious damage to the flowers or cones, resulting in reduced  seed crops (50).

    The European spruce sawfly (Diprion hercyniae) is an important  pest in eastern Canada but has not invaded western portions of the range.  The yellowheaded spruce sawfly (Pikonema alaskensis) and  greenheaded spruce sawfly (P. dimmockii) occasionally defoliate  black spruce but seldom cause serious damage over large areas.  Occasionally, a buildup in populations of the spruce beetle (Dendroctonus  rufipennis) in white spruce leads to invasion and death of black  spruce, usually where the two species are growing together. The spruce bud  midge (Rhabdophaga swainei) may affect height growth in black  spruce under some conditions (7). Monochamus wood borers have been  known to kill considerable numbers of trees in areas adjacent to strip  cuts as a result of initial buildup of populations in logging slash (50).

    Snowshoe hare may cause extensive damage to seedlings and saplings when  populations of hare are high. Red squirrels gather cones in large  quantities and give a peculiar clumped appearance to the top of the tree.  Squirrels and microtines may consume a large percentage of the seed supply  in some areas during poor seed years.

    Black spruce tops are often broken at a height of 3 to 6 m (10 to 20 ft)  by snow and ice. In Alaska, one storm in 1967-68 broke 28 percent of the  stems in a 160-year-old black spruce stand (46). Windthrow and breakage  are two of the principal causes of mortality in black spruce stands in the  Lake States; they must be considered when planning for harvesting black  spruce stands.

    Black spruce is easily killed by both ground and crown fires. It  generally rates high in fire hazard, although many peatland stands have a  low risk except during very dry periods (26).

    Black spruce growing in peatlands is especially susceptible to changes  in the water table, which sometimes occur naturally as the result of  damming of small streams by beavers, but also result from increased or  impeded drainage caused by road construction.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Leslie A. Viereck

Source: Silvics of North America

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General Ecology

Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: fire severity, frequency, litter, peat, severity, wildfire

Following fire, black spruce establishes best where severe burning
exposes mineral soils on upland sites or moist peat on lowland sites
[40,72].  Unburned or partially burned sphagnum mosses are also good
seedbeds, but unburned or partially burned feather mosses are poor
seedbeds [2].  In southern Ontario, feather mosses are not wholly
consumed by fire, but rotting logs under the feather mosses are often
exposed and provide excellent seedbeds [45].

Experimental prescribed fires in a black spruce/feather moss stand in
interior Alaska burned at varying fire severities, creating a mosaic
pattern similar to that created by wildfire. Moisture content of the
forest floor was critical in determining fire severity. Black spruce
was expected to regenerate succesfully after these fires [64]. See the Research Project Summary of this study for further information.

After an experimental burn on black spruce/feather moss sites in
interior Alaska, naturally and artificially sown seeds germinated only
where fire had removed part or all of the organic matter.  No seedlings
were found on unburned surfaces or on scorched or charred feather
mosses.  In general, exposed mineral soils provided the best seedbeds.
Although seedlings established in areas where the organic layer was
partially consumed, none survived past 3 years.  However, on sites where
mineral soil was exposed, seedling frequency was 35 percent after 1
year, and 81 percent after 3 years, as a result of continued natural
seedfall [72].  Following broadcast burning on black spruce/feather moss
cut-overs (area thinned from 2,180 to 800 trees per acre
[5,387-1,977/ha]) in southeastern Manitoba, black spruce seedling
establishment and survival were better on moderate-severity than on
light-severity burns.  Five years after burning, stocking was 94
percent in areas where burning depth averaged 4 to 7 inches (10-18 cm),
70 percent in areas where burning depth averaged 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm),
and 35 percent in unburned areas [15]. See the Research Project Summary of this study for further information.

The Wickersham Dome Fire near Fairbanks, Alaska, burned 15,600 acres
(6,300 ha) of mainly black spruce stands ranging in age from 50 to 125
years.  For 3 years after this fire, seedling establishment was quite
variable in both lightly burned areas ( less than 50 percent of ground surface
blackened, litter depth reduced an average of 2.25 inches [5.7 cm], and
40 percent of ground vegetation alive 1 year after fire) and heavily
burned areas (>90 percent of ground surface blackened, litter depth
reduced an average of 4 inches [10.3 cm], and nearly all ground
vegetation consumed).  In one heavily burned area, seedling
establishment was slow, with only 20 percent of plots containing
seedlings 3 years after the fire for a total of 1,113 seedlings per acre
(2,750/ha).  Conversely, another heavily burned area contained 8,500
seedlings per acre (21,000/ha) 3 years after the fire.  In
lightly burned areas, unburned and partially burned sphagnum mosses
provided a good seedbed for black spruce so that by 3 years after the
fire there were 16,200 seedlings per acre (40,000/ha) [62].

Black spruce seeds in quickly after fire on relatively dry uplands where
it occurs with jack, red, or lodgepole pine.  However, the pines also
seed in aggressively and quickly overtop black spruce.  A 35-year-old
burn in northern Minnesota was composed mostly of jack pine and black
spruce.  The jack pine were predominantly 33 to 34 years old and 4 to 6
inches (10-15 cm) in diameter, while the black spruce were 28 to 32
years old and 1 to 3 inches (2.5-3 cm) in diameter [33].  Black spruce
is very shade tolerant and can survive in this suppressed condition for
more than 100 years [33] and, in the absence of fire, will eventually
replace the pines [8,65].

In southern Labrador, black spruce seedling establishment following fire
is slow and progressive over a period of 70 to 100 years, resulting in
uneven-aged stands.  Within spruce stands in this coastal climate, fires
generally consume very little organic matter and leave only charred
humus.  For the first 20 years after fire, seedling establishment is
sporadic and largely restricted to depressions, the edges of water
courses, and exposed mineral soils [26].
  • 2.  Aksamit, Scott E.; Irving, Frank D. 1984. Prescribed burning for lowland        black spruce regeneration in northern Minnesota. Canadian Journal of        Forest Research. 14: 107-113.  [7298]
  • 8.  Bergeron, Yves; Dubuc, Michelle. 1989. Succession in the southern part        of the Canadian boreal forest. Vegetatio. 79: 51-63.  [5042]
  • 15.  Chrosciewicz, Z. 1976. Burning for black spruce regeneration on a        lowland cutover site in southeastern Manitoba. Canadian Journal of        Forest Research. 6(2): 179-186.  [7280]
  • 26.  Foster, David R. 1985. Vegetation development following fire in Picea        mariana (black spruce) - Pleurozium forests of south-eastern Labrador,        Canada. Journal of Ecology. 73: 517-534.  [7222]
  • 33.  Heinselman, Miron L. 1973. Restoring fire to the canoe country.        Naturalist. 24: 21-31.  [15810]
  • 40.  LeBarron, Russell K. 1948. Silvicultural management of black spruce in        Minnesota. Circular No. 791. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture. 60 p.  [13554]
  • 45.  Marek, G. T. 1975. Ecosystem management of black spruce on shallow sites        in the Lake Nipigon-Beardmore area. In: Fraser, J. W.; Jeglum, J. K.;        Ketcheson, D. E.; [and others]
  • 62.  Viereck, L. A.; Dyrness, C. T. 1979. Ecological effects of the        Wickersham Dome Fire near Fairbanks, Alaska. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-90.        Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific        Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 71 p.  [6392]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]
  • 72.  Zasada, John C.; Norum, Rodney A.; Van Veldhuizen, Robert M.; Teutsch,        Christian E. 1983. Artificial regeneration of trees and tall shrubs in        experimentally burned upland black spruce/feather moss stands in Alaska.        Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 13: 903-913.  [6991]
  • 64.  Viereck, L. A.; Foote, Joan; Dyrness, C. T.; [and others]

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Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: fuel, fuel moisture, litter, natural, peat, shrubs

Fire behavior:  In Alaska, Lutz [42] observed that burning in spruce
stands tends to be more intense on ridges than in valleys, and that
slopes with south or west exposures commonly have more mineral soil
exposed after fire than slopes with north or east exposures.  On rocky
slopes or ridges, fires are often unusually severe.

The forest floor under most black spruce stands is made up of a thick
organic mat [18].  Most fires do not consume the entire forest floor,
but produce a mosaic of small patches of exposed mineral soil intermixed
within larger areas of partially consumed organic material [25].  Late
summer fires, however, sometimes consume the entire organic layer and
expose extensive areas of mineral soil [61].  Burning black spruce
stands in Alaska results in increased soil and forest floor temperatures
and nutrient cycling rates.  This results in a warmer, more productive
site for 10 to 20 years after fire [59].

Broadcast burning following timber harvest:  After clearcutting black
spruce on organic sites in the Lake States, slash is often broadcast
burned to aid natural regeneration.  Burning is generally recommended if
there is heavy slash, a feather moss carpet, or abundant tall shrubs,
grasses, or sedges [37].  For natural regeneration to be successful, an
adequate seed supply is necessary, and fuels, including slash, litter,
mosses, and peat, need to be sufficiently dry to allow for reasonably
severe burns [15].  Aksamit and Irving [2] studied black spruce
regeneration on numerous broadcast burned clearcuts in northern
Minnesota.  They found that where the understory was dominated by
sphagnum mosses before cutting, black spruce regenerated well regardless
of the burning treatment.  In fact, adequate regeneration was obtained
even without burning.  On feather-moss-dominated sites, prescribed
burning was necessary to promote black spruce regeneration.  For burns
to be effective on feather moss sites, they should be conducted when
100- and 1000-hour fuel moisture is less than 25 percent.  However,
burning under these conditions may lead to fire control and mop up
problems, and higher costs.  Where speckled alder dominates the
understory before logging, natural regeneration of black spruce after
broadcast burning is quite variable.  Low-intensity burns seem to favor
black spruce regeneration, and more severe burns tend to favor other
tall shrubs which compete fiercely with spruce seedlings.  Johnston [37]
has outlined broadcast burning techniques for lowland black spruce in
the Lake States.

Eastern dwarf mistletoe control:  Prescribed burning can be used to
eradicate eastern dwarf mistletoe in stands of black spruce.  For
mistletoe control to be effective, burning must result in 100 percent
black spruce mortality.  To ensure complete mortality, live trees can be
cut to provide slash where understories are sparse, and/or diesel oil
can be sprayed on slash when surface fuels are too thin or wet [74].

Frequent fires:  Black spruce normally seeds in aggressively following
fire, but it can be eliminated from an area if a second fire occurs
before these young trees reach seed-producing age [1].  Black spruce
regenerated quickly following a 1923 fire in northern Ontario, but 8
years after a second fire in 1929 passed through the area, no black
spruce seedlings were found [46].
  • 1.  A. D. Revill Associates. 1978. Ecological eff. of fire and its mgmt. in        Canada's national parks: a synthesis of the literature. Vols 1&2. Lit.        Rev. & Annot. Bibliography. Ottawa, ON: Parks Canada, National Parks        Branch, Natural Resources Division. 345 p.  [3416]
  • 2.  Aksamit, Scott E.; Irving, Frank D. 1984. Prescribed burning for lowland        black spruce regeneration in northern Minnesota. Canadian Journal of        Forest Research. 14: 107-113.  [7298]
  • 15.  Chrosciewicz, Z. 1976. Burning for black spruce regeneration on a        lowland cutover site in southeastern Manitoba. Canadian Journal of        Forest Research. 6(2): 179-186.  [7280]
  • 18.  Dyrness, C. T.; Viereck, L. A.; Van Cleve, K. 1986. Fire in taiga        communities of interior Alaska. In: Forest ecosystems in the Alaskan        taiga. New York: Springer-Verlag: 74-86.  [3881]
  • 25.  Foote, M. Joan. 1983. Classification, description, and dynamics of plant        communities after fire in the taiga of interior Alaska. Res. Pap.        PNW-307. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,        Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 108 p.  [7080]
  • 37.  Johnston, William F. 1977. Manager's handbook for black spruce in the        North Central States. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-34. St. Paul, MN: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest        Experiment Station. 18 p.  [8684]
  • 42.  Lutz, H. J. 1956. Ecological effects of forest fires in the interior of        Alaska. Tech. Bull. No. 1133. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 121 p.  [7653]
  • 46.  Millar, J. B. 1939. Spruce regeneration in northern Ontario. Forestry        Chronicle. 15(11): 93-96.  [13255]
  • 59.  Van Cleve, K.; Dyrness, C. T.; Viereck, L. A.; [and others]
  • 61.  Viereck, Leslie A. 1975. Forest ecology of the Alaska taiga. In:        Proceedings of the circumpolar conference on northern ecology; 1975        September 15-18; Ottawa, ON. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service: 1-22.  [7315]
  • 74.  Irving, F.D.; French, D. W. 1971. Control by fire of dwarf mistletoe in        black spruce. Journal of Forestry. 69: 28-30.  [14006]

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: duff, tundra

Closed boreal forests:  Following fire, fire-killed black spruce trees
release large quantities of seeds over a period of 1 to 5 years,
resulting in abundant seedling establishment.  Numerous authors report
that in boreal forests black spruce seeds in promptly following fire.
[25,42,50,63,68].  In interior Alaska, Foote [25] observed an average of
17,954 black spruce seedlings per acre (44,346/ha) on black spruce sites
which had burned 1 to 5 years earlier.  By 50 years after fire, black
spruce stands had naturally thinned to 2,595 stems per acre (6,402/ha);
trees in these stands averaged 2.1 inches (5.4 cm) d.b.h. and were 16.4
to 23 feet (5-7 m) tall.

Open woodlands:  In open black spruce woodlands in the Northwest
Territories, black spruce seed production peaks when stand age reaches
100 to 200 years.  Fires occurring within this time frame have little
effect on black spruce, as it quickly regenerates from seed.  Burning
prepares good seedbeds by removing duff and competing vegetation, and by
altering the thermal regime of the soil, which favors germination
[9,10].  In open woodlands in northern Quebec, black spruce tends to
regenerate quickly after fire, regaining or exceeding prefire density
within 30years [56].  Moving northward from open woodlands to arctic
treeline, the likelihood of successful black spruce seedling
establishment following fire progressively diminishes.

Forest-tundra ecotone:  In the forest-tundra ecotone north of open
spruce woodlands in the Northwest Territories, black spruce seed
production is poor, and generally little or no seed is available for
postfire regeneration.  Where sparse seed production does occur,
short-term climatic changes over a period of only 1 to 10 years could
exhaust the seed population before a fire, or prevent seed germination
after a fire.  Near arctic treeline in the Northwest Territories, black
spruce stands do not regenerate following fire [9,10].  At treeline in
northern Quebec, fires destroy or severely reduce black spruce and cause
a shift toward arctic tundra.  Here, black spruce seedlings are only
occasionally found after fire and are usually in depressions at the edge
of burned areas where nearby living trees contain viable seeds [50].
  • 9.  Black, R. A.; Bliss, L. C. 1978. Recovery sequence of Picea mariana -        Vaccinium uliginosum forests after burning near Inuvik, Northwest        Territories, Canada. Canadian Journal of Botany. 56: 2020-2030.  [7448]
  • 10.  Black, R. Alan; Bliss, L. C. 1980. Reproductive ecology of Picea mariana        (Mill.) BSP., at tree line near Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada.        Ecological Monographs. 50(3): 331-354.  [8413]
  • 25.  Foote, M. Joan. 1983. Classification, description, and dynamics of plant        communities after fire in the taiga of interior Alaska. Res. Pap.        PNW-307. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,        Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 108 p.  [7080]
  • 42.  Lutz, H. J. 1956. Ecological effects of forest fires in the interior of        Alaska. Tech. Bull. No. 1133. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 121 p.  [7653]
  • 50.  Payette, Serge; Morneau, Claude; Sirois, Luc; Desponts, Mireille. 1989.        Recent fire history of the northern Quebec biomes. Ecology. 70(3):        656-673.  [9704]
  • 56.  Sirois, Luc; Payette, Serge. 1991. Reduced postfire tree regeneration        along a boreal forest - forest tundra transect in northern Quebec.        Ecology. 72(2): 619-627.  [13954]
  • 63.  Viereck, L. A.; Dyrness, C. T.; Batten, A. R.; Wenzlick, K. J. 1992. The        Alaska vegetation classification. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-286. Portland,        OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest        Research Station. 278 p.  [2431]
  • 68.  Wilton, W. C. 1963. Black spruce seedfall immediately following fire.        Forestry Chronicle. 39(4): 477-478.  [12801]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

Black spruce is easily killed by fire because it has thin bark and
shallow roots.  Trees are often killed even by low-intensity surface
fires.  Crowning is common in black spruce stands because low-growing,
lichen-draped branches are easily ignited by ground fires.  Crown fires
typically result in extensive mortality.

In interior Alaska, most fires in black spruce stands are a combination
of ground and crown fires that usually kill all black spruce [25].
Hanson [32] found that all black spruce trees were killed following a
low-intensity surface burn (the top 2 to 4 inches [5-10 cm] of the 6 to
14 inch [15-35 cm] organic mat was consumed) in an open black
spruce-tamarack community in interior Alaska.  This site contained 81 to
162 trees per acre (200-400/ha) that ranged from 40 to 178 years old and
1.5 to 3 inches (4-7 cm) in diameter.
  • 25.  Foote, M. Joan. 1983. Classification, description, and dynamics of plant        communities after fire in the taiga of interior Alaska. Res. Pap.        PNW-307. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,        Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 108 p.  [7080]
  • 32.  Hanson, William A. 1979. Preliminary results of the Bear Creek fire        effects studies. Proposed open file report. Anchorage, AK: U.S.        Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Anchorage        District Office. 83 p.  [6400]

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Fire Ecology

More info for the term: basal area

Plant adaptations to fire:  Black spruce produces seed at an early age,
produces good seed crops regularly, and has persistent, semi-serotinous
cones that release seed slowly over a period of years.  Thus, trees
older than 30 years virtually always contain large amounts of seed.
Following fire this large seed supply is released onto burned areas,
allowing rapid seedling establishment.  Black spruce seeds are usually
not destroyed by fire because the cones are located in the upper part of
the crown where they are least likely to burn.  Thus, even when trees
are killed by fire, cones usually retain viable seed.  Furthermore, the
cones are small and occur in tightly compacted clusters, so that some
seeds usually remain viable even after intense crown fires [71].

Immediately following fire large quantities of seeds are released.  In
fact, striking recently fire-killed black spruce trees with an axe
causes seeds to fall from scorched cones [40].  Within 60 days of a fire
in an upland black spruce stand in Newfoundland which had an average
tree height of 40 feet (12 m) and basal area of 188 square feet,
1,500,000 seeds per acre (3,705,000/ha) fell [68].

Delayed seedfall and delayed germination are additional postfire
adaptations which ensure that some seed is always available to germinate
and establish during postfire years with favorable growing conditions
[57].  Although large amounts of seed do fall within the 1st postfire
year, small amounts of seed will continue to be released for several
years after fire.  Seedfall continued for 8 years following fire in a
70-year-old black spruce stand in interior Alaska [61].  Not all seed
released immediately after fire germinates during the 1st postfire year.
In New Brunswick, only 19 percent of black spruce seed artificially sown
on burned areas germinated in the 1st postfire year, while 25 percent
germinated in the 2nd postfire year [57].

Fire regime:  Wildfires are frequent and extensive in black spruce
forests and usually prevent the development of uneven-aged stands [65].
Throughout much of the boreal region of Canada, spruce stands burn at
50- to 150-year intervals [34].  In interior Alaska, most black spruce
stands burn before reaching 100 years in age [25].  Open black spruce
woodlands (also called subarctic woodlands, open boreal forests, or
lichen woodlands) in the Northwest Territories and in northern Quebec
have fire intervals of 100 years or less [9,44,50].  Moving away from
the relatively dry continental boreal forests toward the Atlantic
seaboard, fire intervals become longer.  The longest fire-free intervals
for spruce stands probably occur in southern Labrador, where the fire
rotation for black spruce forests is estimated at 500 years [26].  Black
spruce stands occurring in bogs and muskegs experience longer fire-free
intervals than those in nearby upland stands do, and sometimes become
uneven-aged [65].
  • 9.  Black, R. A.; Bliss, L. C. 1978. Recovery sequence of Picea mariana -        Vaccinium uliginosum forests after burning near Inuvik, Northwest        Territories, Canada. Canadian Journal of Botany. 56: 2020-2030.  [7448]
  • 25.  Foote, M. Joan. 1983. Classification, description, and dynamics of plant        communities after fire in the taiga of interior Alaska. Res. Pap.        PNW-307. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,        Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 108 p.  [7080]
  • 26.  Foster, David R. 1985. Vegetation development following fire in Picea        mariana (black spruce) - Pleurozium forests of south-eastern Labrador,        Canada. Journal of Ecology. 73: 517-534.  [7222]
  • 34.  Heinselman, Miron L. 1981. Fire intensity and frequency as factors in        the distribution and structure of northern ecosystems. In: Mooney, H.        A.; Bonnicksen, T. M.; Christensen, N. L.; [and others]
  • 40.  LeBarron, Russell K. 1948. Silvicultural management of black spruce in        Minnesota. Circular No. 791. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture. 60 p.  [13554]
  • 44.  Maikawa, E.; Kershaw, K. A. 1976. Studies on lichen-dominated systems.        XIX. The postfire recovery sequence of black spruce-lichen woodland in        the Abitau Lake region, N.W.T. Canadian Journal of Botany. 54:        2679-2687.  [7225]
  • 50.  Payette, Serge; Morneau, Claude; Sirois, Luc; Desponts, Mireille. 1989.        Recent fire history of the northern Quebec biomes. Ecology. 70(3):        656-673.  [9704]
  • 57.  Thomas, P. A.; Wein, Ross W. 1985. Delayed emergence of four conifer        species on postfire seedbeds in eastern Canada. Canadian Journal of        Forest Research. 15: 727-729.  [7882]
  • 61.  Viereck, Leslie A. 1975. Forest ecology of the Alaska taiga. In:        Proceedings of the circumpolar conference on northern ecology; 1975        September 15-18; Ottawa, ON. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service: 1-22.  [7315]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]
  • 68.  Wilton, W. C. 1963. Black spruce seedfall immediately following fire.        Forestry Chronicle. 39(4): 477-478.  [12801]
  • 71.  Zasada, J. 1986. Natural regeneration of trees and tall shrubs on forest        sites in interior Alaska. In: Van Cleve, K.; Chapin, F. S., III;        Flanagan, P. W.; [and others]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: climax, cover, peat

Black spruce is considered a climax species over most of its range.
However, some ecologists question whether black spruce forests truly
attain climax because fires in this forest type usually occur at 50- to
150-year intervals, while "stable" conditions may not be attained for
several hundred years [61].

The frequent fire return interval in black spruce forests perpetuates
numerous seral communities.  Throughout boreal North America, paper
birch and quaking aspen are seral hardwoods that frequently invade burns
in black spruce types [61].  Black spruce typically seeds in promptly
after fire, and with the continued absence of fire, will eventually
dominate the hardwoods.  Throughout much of Alaska, aspen and paper
birch often dominate seral stands until they begin to break up at about
90 years, at which time black spruce attains dominance [25].  Since
fires occur at 100-year or more frequent intervals, seral communities
codominated by aspen and black spruce or paper birch and black spruce
are common and widespread throughout Alaska.

In southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States, balsam fir
and northern white-cedar are more shade tolerant than black spruce and
tend to replace it on "productive" sites [6].  Black spruce is a pioneer
that invades the sedge mat in filled-lake bogs, but it may be preceded
slightly by tamarack.  In time black spruce and tamarack may form a
stable forest cover type in swamps.  However, as the peat soil is
gradually elevated by the accumulation of organic matter, and the
fertility of the site improves, balsam fir and northern white-cedar will
eventually replace black spruce and tamarack [27,40].

Black spruce tends to replace jack pine and lodgepole pine on relatively
dry sites in western Canada [27].
  • 6.  Benzie, John W.; Blum, Barton M. 1989. Silviculture of northeastern        conifers. In: Burns, Russell M., compiler. The scientific basis for        silvicultural and management decisions in the National Forest System.        Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-55. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 18-30.  [10243]
  • 25.  Foote, M. Joan. 1983. Classification, description, and dynamics of plant        communities after fire in the taiga of interior Alaska. Res. Pap.        PNW-307. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,        Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 108 p.  [7080]
  • 27.  Fowells, H. A., compiler. 1965. Silvics of forest trees of the United        States. Agric. Handb. 271. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 762 p.  [12442]
  • 40.  LeBarron, Russell K. 1948. Silvicultural management of black spruce in        Minnesota. Circular No. 791. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture. 60 p.  [13554]
  • 61.  Viereck, Leslie A. 1975. Forest ecology of the Alaska taiga. In:        Proceedings of the circumpolar conference on northern ecology; 1975        September 15-18; Ottawa, ON. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service: 1-22.  [7315]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: layering, litter

Cone and seed production:  Black spruce has the smallest seeds of North
American spruces, averaging 404,000 per pound (890,000/kg) [55].  Trees
can begin producing seed when as young as 10 years old but generally do
not produce seed in quantity until they are 30 years old or older [65].
Some seed is produced every year, and bumper crops are produced about
every 4 years [65].  Since seed crops seldom fail and the
semi-serotinous cones release seeds over a period of several years,
stands that are 40 years old or older nearly always have a continuous
supply of seeds.  Annual seedfall in mature black spruce stands has been
reported at [29,65]:

     200,000 seeds/acre (494,000/ha) in Minnesota
     990,000-1,692,000 seeds/acre (2.45-4.2 million/ha) in Ontario
     404,000-1,900,000 seeds/acre (1.0-4.9 million/ha) in ne Ontario
     240,000-528,000 seeds/acre (590,000-1,300,000/ha) near Inuvik, NWT
     344,000 seeds/acre (850,000/ha) in central Alaska

Dispersal:  Black spruce cones are semi-serotinous.  They remain
partially closed and disperse seed over a period of several years.  In
Minnesota, cones release about 50 percent of their seeds within 1 year
after ripening, and about 85 percent within 5 years [68].  In
northeastern Ontario, cones contained about one-half of their seeds
after 5 years [29]; however, another study in Ontario found that after 3
years, cones retained only about 2 percent of their seeds [65].  Some of
this variation is probably related to weather, as cones tend to open in
warm, dry weather but remain closed in cold, wet weather [29].
Dispersal occurs throughout the year but is greatest in the winter and
spring and lowest in the fall [65].  In northeastern Ontario, 58 percent
of annual seedfall is dispersed in March, April, and May [29].  In
Minnesota, annual seedfall was: 9 percent in August, 19 percent in
September, 38 percent from October through April, 13 percent in May, 14
percent in June, and 7 percent in July [27].  Most seed is dispersed
within about 264 feet (80 m) of a source [36].

Viability:  Germinative capacity of recently ripened seed is high, about
88 percent [55].  Viability decreases with age.  In northeastern
Ontario viability of filled seed averaged 53 percent for 1- to
5-year-old seed, 20 percent for 6- to 10-year-old seed, and 5 percent
for 11- to 15-year-old seed [29].

Germination and seedling establishment:  Black spruce seeds will
germinate and establish on numerous substrates if the seedbed remains
moist but not saturated, and free of competing vegetation [37].
Seedling establishment is best on mineral soils, sphagnum mosses, and
rotten wood [16,65].  Seeds readily germinate on sphagnum mosses,
probably because they are continually moist; however, seedlings are
often overtopped and engulfed by the fast-growing sphagnums [27].
Feather mosses provide a poor seedbed because they have a tendency to
dry out, but black spruce can establish in feather moss during wet
years.

Growth:  Seedlings are shade tolerant, but growth is fastest in full
sunlight [37].  Seedlings rarely grow more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in their
first growing season.  Three-year-old seedlings are commonly 3 to 5
inches tall [27].  Roots of 1st-year seedlings may penetrate to 2 inches
(5 cm) on upland soils, but when growing in mosses roots rarely reach
depths of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) after two growing seasons [27].

Vegetative reproduction:  Layering occurs when black spruce's lower
branches become covered with mosses or litter. It is particularly common
in swamps, bogs, and muskegs.  At the northern limit of trees across
Alaska and northern Canada, black spruce reproduces almost entirely
through layering [19].  Seeds may be produced, but few if any are
viable. 
  • 16.  Curtis, John T. 1959. The vegetation of Wisconsin. Madison, WI: The        University of Wisconsin Press. 657 p.  [7116]
  • 19.  Elliott, Deborah L. 1979. The current regenerative capacity of the        northern Canadian trees, Keewatin, N.W.T., Canada: some preliminary        observations. Arctic and Alpine Research. 11(2): 243-251.  [8419]
  • 27.  Fowells, H. A., compiler. 1965. Silvics of forest trees of the United        States. Agric. Handb. 271. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 762 p.  [12442]
  • 29.  Haavisto, V. F. 1975. Peatland black spruce seed production and        dispersal in northeastern Ontario. In: Fraser, J. W.; Jeglum, J. K.;        Ketcheson, D. E.; [and others]
  • 36.  Tuskan, Gerald A.; Laughlin, Kevin. 1991. Windbreak species performance        and management practices as reported by Montana and North Dakota        landowners. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 46(3): 225-228.        [15084]
  • 37.  Johnston, William F. 1977. Manager's handbook for black spruce in the        North Central States. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-34. St. Paul, MN: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest        Experiment Station. 18 p.  [8684]
  • 55.  Safford, L. O. 1974. Picea A. Dietr.  spruce. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed.        Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450.        Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 587-597.        [7728]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]
  • 68.  Wilton, W. C. 1963. Black spruce seedfall immediately following fire.        Forestry Chronicle. 39(4): 477-478.  [12801]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: phanerophyte

Phanerophyte

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Life Form

More info for the terms: shrub, tree

Tree, Shrub

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Post-fire Regeneration

   crown-stored residual colonizer; long-viability seed in on-site cones

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Reaction to Competition

Black spruce is classed as tolerant of  shade but is less tolerant than balsam fir and northern white-cedar, two  common competitors in the eastern part of its range. Seedlings (and  apparently layerings) develop in as little as 10 percent of full light  intensity, but survival and growth are much better in the open (12). The  maximum overstory basal area that can be tolerated without serious loss of  seedling vigor is probably 9 to 11 m²/ha (40 to 50 ft²/acre).

    Aerial spraying of selective herbicides such as 2, 4-D usually results  in effective release of black spruce in brushy stands (26,50). Released  trees, however, apparently do not increase growth for about 2 years, and  complete release can result in winter drying. Applying pellets of the  nonselective herbicide picloram to speckled alder clumps seems to control  regrowth longer than 2,4-D but can damage associated black spruce even on  well-drained soils (40). Although quite expensive, recently introduced  selective herbicides such as glyphosate and hexazinone are also registered  for release of spruce. Directions on all herbicide labels should be  followed carefully and pertinent precautions heeded.

    In spruce-fir stands, mature black spruce apparently responds better to  release than white spruce and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa); its  diameter increment increases by several times (9). Many intermediate and  suppressed black spruce in swamp stands, however, die after heavy cutting  (21).

    Black spruce has less ability than white spruce to overcome stagnation  in even-aged stands because it develops a smaller range of crown classes.  Heavy thinning in dense, middle-aged stands increases diameter increment  but often decreases volume increment, probably because the site is not  fully utilized (47).

    Black spruce is often a postfire pioneer on both uplands and peatlands,  and fire usually results in the immediate reestablishment of black spruce  as long as a seed source is available. Black spruce often dominates  fire-prone areas, such as upland ridges, because it produces seed at an  early age (20). It also becomes dominant on poor peatland (bog) sites  where it has little competition. Tamarack and black spruce are the first  trees to invade the sedge mat in filled-lake bogs.

    Postfire stands of black spruce are generally even aged. Uneven- to  all-aged stands are almost absent in virgin forests because wildfires have  been frequent and extensive enough to prevent their development on most  sites. Such stands are common on bogs and muskegs, however, where the  average interval between fires is probably longer than on uplands. Closed  stands that escape fire for more than 100 years usually become uneven aged  when black spruce layerings fill the gaps created by deterioration of the  overstory (17).

    Black spruce grows more slowly than many of the trees and shrubs with  which it is associated. Thus, it encounters substantial competition where  these species are abundant, particularly when they reproduce from sprouts  or suckers rather than from seed. Black spruce is fairly common as an  understory tree in jack pine and lodgepole pine stands on dry sites, and  succeeds the pines in the absence of fire or harvesting (12). Various  mixtures of black spruce, white spruce, and balsam fir-plus northern  white-cedar south of the boreal forest-eventually form the main stand on  most well-drained sites supporting quaking aspen, paper birch, or balsam  poplar. On the better peatland sites, black spruce is often overtopped by  quaking aspen, paper birch, tamarack, black ash, or red maple for many  years before it becomes dominant. Over much of its range, it is eventually  succeeded by balsam fir and, to a lesser extent, northern white-cedar if  undisturbed by fire (17).

    Black spruce does not compete successfully with balsam fir, northern  white-cedar, red maple, balsam poplar, and black ash after cutting in  mixed stands on good peatland sites (12). Similarly, harvesting or other  disturbances on well-drained sites often lead to high proportions of  balsam fir, paper birch, quaking aspen, and balsam poplar, or shrubs (50).  Speckled alder is a strong competitor following harvesting on good  peatland sites. The spruce, however, is generally able to grow through the  alder canopy after several years (50). In Newfoundland and parts of  Quebec, there has been extensive conversion of black spruce stands to  heathland, dominated by lambkill and Labrador-tea, following repeated  fires.

    Clearcutting in strips or patches is generally considered to be the best  silvicultural system for managing black spruce (21,26,50). Satisfactory  reestablishment of black spruce after clearcutting, however, requires an  adequate source of reproduction and often some kind of site preparation,  such as slash disposal. Uneven- or all-aged management is best applied on  poor sites where stands are windfirm. and have abundant layering (27).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Leslie A. Viereck

Source: Silvics of North America

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Rooting Habit

Although some black spruce roots may penetrate to  60 cm (24 in), most spread laterally at the moss-humus interface. The bulk  of the root biomass is in the upper 20 cm (8 in) of the organic horizons.  In areas with rapidly accumulating organic layers, several sets of  progressively younger roots may develop adventitiously. These new roots  may grow as fast as 1 m (3 ft) per year and as much as 4.6 m (15 ft) in 8  to 9 years (2).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Leslie A. Viereck

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

Black spruce flowers in late May or early June in the southern portion
of its range and 1 to 2 weeks later in the northern portion.  Female
conelets develop rapidly and contain mature seeds by about 3 months
after pollination (late August or early September).  The cones release
seeds gradually over a period of years [65].

Beginning and ending of height growth is generally as follows [27]:

         Area       Height growth begins        Height growth ends

     Lake States        June 8-20                  August 1-10
        Maine      late May-early June          mid to late August
       Alberta           June 1                     August 2
  • 27.  Fowells, H. A., compiler. 1965. Silvics of forest trees of the United        States. Agric. Handb. 271. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 762 p.  [12442]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]

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Reproduction

Vegetative Reproduction

Layering is an important means of  reproduction in black spruce on some sites, especially where rapidly  growing mosses cover the lower branches of the slow-growing seedlings and  saplings (45). Layerings from the lower branches develop most abundantly  in the more opengrown, poorer stands and less frequently in dense,  productive stands. Layering is common in black spruce growing at tree  line, probably as a result of depression of the lower branches by snow,  and accounts for the presence of "candelabrum" spruce, a  circular clump originating from one individual with the tallest tree in  the center. Layering is also common in black spruce/speckled alder  communities on organic soils but is rare in well-stocked black  spruce/Labrador-tea stands (45). The trees established from layerings  constitute advance growth on some sites and are particularly important  where logging disturbance is light.

    Black spruce may reproduce from shoots originating from roots (12), but  this is uncommon. Cuttings from black spruce seedlings can be rooted  successfully with periodic misting but without application of auxins (3).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seedling Development

Sphagnum mosses provide a continuously  moist seedbed in many areas, but growth of black spruce seedlings may be  slow in sphagnum moss because of a poor supply of nutrients (23,24), and  they may not be able to keep ahead of some fast-growing sphagnum species  that eventually overtop them. Feathermosses may provide a suitable seedbed  during wet years, but they are unreliable and usually dry out before  penetration by the seedling root occurs. Moist mineral soils usually   provide good seedbeds for black spruce, but exposed mineral soil may be  too waterlogged or subject to frost heaving in some low-lying areas (23).

    Fires that completely remove the surface organic layer usually provide  good seedbeds for black spruce. Slash removal by broadcast burning or  full-tree skidding is also beneficial (8,26). Seedling mortality seems to  be highest on burned duff and lowest on some moss and mineral soil  surfaces with an adequate moisture regime.

    Seedbed scarification increases stocking. Under optimal climatic  conditions, direct seeding on these scarified surfaces results in  seedlings representing 10 to 30 percent of the sown seed (25,56). A sowing  of 79,000 seeds per hectare (32,000/acre) should result in at least 60  percent milacre (4.05 m² or 43.56 ft²) stocking of seedlings,  which is considered satisfactory (26). Spring sowing results in the best  germination and survival, and viability is drastically lowered if  germination does not occur during the same year (13,56). Germination is  epigeal (42).

    Nursery-grown transplants (2-2) survive better, grow faster, and are  more economical than seedlings (3-0) when black spruce plantations are  established (34,35). Average initial height growth of black spruce  seedlings varies from 2.5 cm (1 in) per year on moss to 15 cm (6 in) per  year on some mineral soil substrates, but annual growth may be as low as 5  mm (0.2 in).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Leslie A. Viereck

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Seed Production and Dissemination

Black spruce seeds mature 3  months after pollination, in late August or early September. Some are  produced almost every year, but heavy seed years occur at intervals of 2  to 6 years and peak crops every 4 years over most of the range. Good seed  years may be less frequent in the north; vegetative reproduction of clonal  populations occurs at the northern limit of black spruce in Canada (36).

    The cones of black spruce remain partially closed and disperse seed for  several years, providing an adequate supply of seeds to reproduce the  stand whenever fire occurs. Both the number and viability of the seeds  decline rapidly, but some viable seeds may remain in the cones for as long  as 25 years (15). In Minnesota, 1-year-old cones contained an average of  50 seeds; 7-year-old cones, 10 seeds; and 19-year-old cones, only 1 or 2  seeds (50). In Newfoundland, the number of seeds per cone was greatly  reduced in 4 years (3.7 seeds per cone), but seed germination remained  high (above 90 percent) for 12 years and then declined rapidly in older  seeds (44).

    Black spruce seeds are dispersed throughout the year, but dispersal is  highest in the spring and lowest in the fall (16). Fires open the cones  and accelerate seed fall for periods of 60 days (55) to 2 to 3 years; the  effect apparently varies with fire intensity.

    The average annual seedfall is about 490,000/ha (200,000/acre) for  Minnesota (26) and substantially higher for Ontario- 2,450,000 to  4,180,000/ha (990,000 to 1,692,000/acre) (15). A maximum of 12,720,000  seeds per hectare (5,148,000/acre) has been reported from Ontario (29). In  northern areas, even near tree line, amounts of seed are within the range  of those from southern areas, with annual amounts from 590,000 to  1,300,000/ha (240,000 to 528,000/acre) reported from Inuvik in Northwest  Territories (6) and 850,000/ha (344,000/acre) from central Alaska (49).

    Black spruce has the smallest seed produced by any spruce in North  America, averaging 890,000/kg (404,000/lb). Despite their light weight and  relatively large wings, the seeds are not commonly dispersed over long  distances. Seed dispersal, primarily by wind, is effective up to 79 m (260  ft) from the windward edge of a mature stand (27).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Flowering and Fruiting

Black spruce is monoecious. Female  flowers (ovulate strobili), produced in the upper meter of the crown, are  usually erect, cylindrical, and green or purplish. At the time of  fertilization, the female conelet is about 15 to 25 mm (0.6 to 1.0 in) in  length. The male flowers (staminate strobili), produced on the outer  branches of the crown below the zone of female flowers, are ovate, 12 to  20 mm (0.5 to 0.8 in) long and dark red to purplish during expansion. The  pollen sacs are yellow, and after pollen dispersal the staminate flowers  appear yellowish brown. A few cones may be produced after 10 years (2),  but the main cone-bearing age of black spruce is from 30 to 250, with  maximum production between 100 and 200 years (6).

    The flower buds formed by early August develop rapidly the following  spring. Female flowers are receptive and pollen is shed in late May or  early June in southern areas of the range and 1 to 2 weeks later in the  north. The female conelets then develop rapidly, and at maturity the cones  are 1 to 4 cm (0.4 to 1.6 in) long.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Growth

Growth and Yield

Under normal unmanaged conditions, black  spruce at maturity averages 12 to 20 m (40 to 65 ft) tall and about 23 cm  (9 in) in d.b.h. on good sites; 8 to 12 m (25 to 40 ft) and about 13 cm (5  in) in d.b.h. on poor sites. Extreme sizes vary from semiprostrate shrubs  or trees to 3 to 6 m (10 to 20 ft) tall and 3 to 5 cm (1 to 2 in) in  d.b.h. in the far north to occasional individuals that are about 27 m (90  ft) tall and 46 cm (18 in) in d.b.h. in the Ontario Clay Belt (12,50).  Average maximum age is about 200 years, but ages up to 280 years have been  reported.

    Volumes of 196 m³/ha (2,800 ft³/acre) are common in 80- to  100-year-old stands on the best peatlands and good upland sites in  southern Canada and the Lake States (12). One unmanaged stand had a total  volume of 492 m³/ha (7,024 ft³/acre) and a basal area of 53.5 m²/ha  (233 ft²/acre) when it was slightly more than 100 years old.

    Regional differences in the site index of black spruce are apparently  related to climatic factors, whereas differences within regions are  associated with soil moisture and nutrients. The moisture-aeration regime  influences growth more than the nutrient regime (22). Within peatlands,  water chemistry-as determined by water sources and movement-seems to be  the principal factor influencing site quality (19).

    Black spruce site index curves differ among regions and substrates. For  example, the curves are lower at older ages in Newfoundland than in  continental Ontario and Quebec. In Ontario, the height-growth patterns of  black spruce are different for peatland and upland stands, particularly  for site indexes less than 8 m (26 ft) at 50 years and stands older than  80 years (38).

    Variable-density yield tables-for stands of various stocking  levels-provide better estimates of black spruce growth than normal and  empirical yield tables in Ontario (10). They show that both site and  stocking influence tree size and volume production. Good sites can grow  larger trees than poor sites, whereas stocking has an adverse effect on  average d.b.h. and no effect on average height. Merchantable volume,  however, increases with stocking except on poor sites (table 1).  Variable-density yield tables are also available for black spruce stands  in Minnesota (39).

    Table 1- Merchantable yields of 120-year-old black  spruce stands in Ontario for trees 10 cm (4 in) d.b.h. and larger (adapted  from 10)              Site index at base age  50 years                 
Characteristic  Stocking¹ at age 30   
12.5 m or 41 ft   
10.7 m or 35 ft   
8.2 m or 27 ft            Average height, m  Full       17       14       11        Half       17       14       11      Average d.b.h., cm  Full       19       13       11        Half       20       15       12      Trees per hectare  Full  1,520  2,480  1,490        Half  1,110  1,880  1,780      Basal area, m²/ha  Full       42       35       15        Half       36       33       19      Volume, m³/ha  Full     298     212       74        Half     260     202       94                    Average height, ft  Full       57       47       37        Half       57       47       37      Average d.b.h., in  Full            7.4            5.3            4.4        Half            8.0            5.9            4.6      Trees per acre  Full     615  1,005     605        Half     450     760     720      Basal area, ft²/acre  Full     181     152       65        Half     158     145       83      Volume, ft³/acre  Full  4,260  3,030  1,050        Half  3,710  2,880  1,350      ¹"Full"  refers to a basal area- for trees 2.5 cm (1 in) in d.b.h. and larger- of  18.4 m²/ha (80 ft²/acre) on site index 12.5 m (41 ft) good  site/medium site; 13.8 m²/ha (60 ft²/acre) on site index 10.7  m (35 ft); and 4.6 m²/ha (20 ft²/acre) on site index 8.2 m (27  ft) poor site. "Half" refers to one-half of the respective  basal areas used for full stocking.        Normal yield tables show that rotation age increases as site quality  decreases. They also show that the corresponding merchantable volume and  mean annual increment decrease greatly from good to poor sites. Averages  for black spruce stands of three site classes in the boreal forest of  Canada (5, p. 50,91,155,186) are as follows:

        Good  Medium  Poor      Rotation age, yr  95  113  132      Merchantable volume, m³/ha  218  160  101      Mean annual increment, m³/ha  2.3  1.4  0.8      Merchantable volume, ft³/acre  3,110  2,285  1,440      Mean annual increment, ft³/acre  33  20  11        Rotation age is the age at which the mean annual increment of  merchantable volume culminates and hence yields the most material per unit  area per annum.

    Little is known about the growth and yield of uneven-aged stands, but  they apparently grow more slowly and have lower volumes than even-aged  stands (17).

    Black spruce plantations reach heights of 1.5 to 4.0 m (5 to 13 ft) 10  years after planting (2,34). A 40-year-old plantation in Minnesota,  planted at a 1.2- by 1.2-m (4- by 4-ft) spacing, was 13.3 m (43.6 ft) tall  and had a basal area of 32.8 m²/ha (143 ft²/acre) (43). On rich  sites in New Brunswick, extensive fast-growing plantations of black spruce  have been established for 45-year rotations because the species has good  potential height growth and is resistant to spruce budworm.

    In experimental studies, fertilization with nitrogen and phosphorus  generally results in increased growth in 60- to 90-year-old stands on  upland boreal sites (48). The best response to fertilization apparently  occurs in stands of low vigor (33,53). For example, fertilization (with  nitrogen and phosphorus combined) may convert some marginally  nonproductive muskeg stands of black spruce into commercial forest stands  (1). Benefits from fertilization will probably be greatest in thinned  stands (51).

    Drainage may increase the growth and yield of black spruce, but maximum  response on peatlands and other wet sites will probably also require  fertilization and (in dense stands) thinning. Full-tree harvesting will  probably not reduce future productivity, except on sites of marginal  fertility (52).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

Genetic variation in black spruce is clinal, primarily along a  north-south geographical gradient. Differences in photoperiod response,  productivity, and survival rate have been shown to be related to the  geographical area of seed origin. Although black spruce ecotypes related  to upland and peatland sites have been reported from some areas, they have  not been recognized in several studies of black spruce variation. Seed  zones should be recognized, but separation of seed by peatland and upland  location is probably not necessary (30,31).

    Hybrids between black spruce and red spruce are common, and  introgressive hybridization between the two species has been reported in  Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec (14,32).

    A natural hybrid between black spruce and white spruce found in northern  Minnesota has been called the Rosendahl spruce (28). Intermediate forms  between black and white spruce have been reported occasionally from other  areas (41), but the genetic isolation of these two species must be nearly  complete.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Picea mariana

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Picea mariana

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 16
Specimens with Barcodes: 23
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Farjon, A.

Reviewer/s
Thomas, P. & Stritch, L.

Contributor/s

Justification

This spruce occurs across the North American continent in the boreal zone. Its wide distribution and large population size lead to an assessment of Least Concern.

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).

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Population

Population
Widespread and abundant.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
No threats have been identified for this species.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Black Spruce occurs in many protected areas across its range.
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Management considerations

Timber harvest:  Clearcutting in strips or patches is generally
considered to be the best silvicultural system for managing black spruce
[38,65].  Most sites are broadcast burned and seeded naturally from
nearby uncut stands [6].  Direct seeding has been used on large
clearcuts in Minnesota.  On these cuts, seeding rates were 4 ounces (112
grams) per acre (approx. 100,000 seeds) to achieve 60 percent stocking,
but 2 to 3 ounces (56-84 grams) were adequate on well-prepared sites
[37].  On brushy sites, aerial spraying herbicides has been used to
release black spruce [38].

Pests and diseases:  Eastern dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum) is
the most serious disease of black spruce in the Lake States and eastern
Canada.  It is less frequent in the West, and completely absent in
northwestern Canada and Alaska.  Infection results in reduced vigor,
witches brooms, deformed trees, and death.  Control is possible through
silvicultural management [27,65].  Black spruce is susceptible to
numerous needle rusts and fungi which result in defoliation and reduced
vigor.  These diseases usually remain at low levels but may become
epidemic [65].  Wind breakage is caused by butt and heart rots which are
common in 70- to 100-year-old stands on upland sites and 100- to
130-year-old stands on organic sites [27,37].  The spruce budworm
defoliates black spruce; however, black spruce is less susceptible than
white spruce, red spruce, or balsam fir (Abies balsamea).  Black spruce
trees most likely to be attacked are those growing with balsam fir and
white spruce [27].  Numerous other insects attack black spruce but only
occasionally cause serious damage [27,65].

Flooding:  Black spruce is susceptible to damage from flooding and
disruptions in normal groundwater movements.  Trees have been killed
over large areas where newly constructed roads impede water movements
and where beavers dam drainage ditches or small streams [27].
  • 6.  Benzie, John W.; Blum, Barton M. 1989. Silviculture of northeastern        conifers. In: Burns, Russell M., compiler. The scientific basis for        silvicultural and management decisions in the National Forest System.        Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-55. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 18-30.  [10243]
  • 27.  Fowells, H. A., compiler. 1965. Silvics of forest trees of the United        States. Agric. Handb. 271. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 762 p.  [12442]
  • 37.  Johnston, William F. 1977. Manager's handbook for black spruce in the        North Central States. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-34. St. Paul, MN: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest        Experiment Station. 18 p.  [8684]
  • 38.  Johnston, William F.; Smith, Thomas M. 1983. Black spruce. In: Burns,        Russell M., tech. comp. Silvicultural systems for the major forest types        of the United States. Agric. Handb. No. 445. Washington, DC: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 96-98.  [13821]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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Black spruce grows more slowly than many associated trees and shrubs, and mature trees in spruce-fir stands apparently respond better to release than white spruce and subalpine fir. Many intermediate and suppressed black spruce in swamp stands, however, die after heavy cutting

Clearcutting in strips or patches is generally considered to be the best silvicultural system for managing black spruce. Satisfactory reestablishment after clearcutting requires an adequate seed source and often some kind of site preparation. Uneven-aged or all-aged management is best applied on poor sites where stands are windfirm and have abundant layering.

Eastern dwarf-mistletoe causes serious problems for black spruce in the Lake States and eastern Canada. The spruce budworm and various other insects are damaging. Black spruce is easily killed by both ground and crown fires. Peatland stands have a low risk except during very dry periods

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Other uses and values

More info for the term: natural

Black spruce is still harvested for Christmas trees, but recently the
amount harvested from natural stands has declined [65].  In the past,
specialty items made from black spruce included healing salves from the
gum, antiscorbutic and diuretic beverages from twigs and needles, and
rope from the roots [55].
  • 55.  Safford, L. O. 1974. Picea A. Dietr.  spruce. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed.        Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450.        Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 587-597.        [7728]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

More info for the term: peatland

Black spruce is recommended for revegetating disturbed sites in boreal
regions.  It may be useful for revegetating seismic lines, borrow pits,
abandoned roads, and construction and well sites [10].  In southeastern
Canada, Maine, and Minnesota, black spruce naturally invades
well-drained raised surfaces in abandoned mined peatlands [23].  It can
be established on disturbed sites by direct seeding or by transplanting
nursery-grown seedlings.

Special procedures have been developed for removing black spruce seed
from the semi-serotinous cones [55].  Seeds retain their viability for
several years when stored in sealed containers in a cool, dry
environment [55].  Seeds require no stratification prior to sowing.
They should be sown soon after snowmelt [10].  On peatland sites,
seedling establishment is best when surface organic layers are exposed
by burning or machine scarification.  On upland sites, exposing mineral
soils before sowing is essential [38].

On well-drained soils 8- to 12-inch-tall (20-43 cm) bareroot transplants
show good growth and survival when planted directly into organic layers
[4].  Thus, site preparation which removes organic layers should not be
undertaken when transplanting black spruce on uplands.  Transplant
survival and growth are generally better following summer than spring
outplanting [4].  In northeastern Alberta, overwinter survival of
container-grown and transplanted black spruce seedlings was satisfactory
on amended oil sand tailings [24].

Black spruce can be readily propagated by root cuttings [4].
  • 4.  Armson, K. A. 1975. Establishment and early development of black spruce.        In: Fraser, J. W.; Jeglum, J. K.; Ketcheson, D. E.; [and others]
  • 10.  Black, R. Alan; Bliss, L. C. 1980. Reproductive ecology of Picea mariana        (Mill.) BSP., at tree line near Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada.        Ecological Monographs. 50(3): 331-354.  [8413]
  • 23.  Famous, Norman C.; Spencer, M. 1989. Revegetation patterns in mined        peatlands in central and eastern North America studied. Restoration and        Management Notes. 7(2): 95-96.  [10171]
  • 24.  Fedkenheuer, A. W.; Heacock, H. M.; Lewis, D. L. 1980. Early performance        of native shrubs and trees planted on amended Athabasca oil sand        tailings. Reclamation Review. 3: 47-55.  [12468]
  • 38.  Johnston, William F.; Smith, Thomas M. 1983. Black spruce. In: Burns,        Russell M., tech. comp. Silvicultural systems for the major forest types        of the United States. Agric. Handb. No. 445. Washington, DC: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 96-98.  [13821]
  • 55.  Safford, L. O. 1974. Picea A. Dietr.  spruce. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed.        Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450.        Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 587-597.        [7728]

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Cover Value

More info for the term: cover

Black spruce provides good cover for moose.  It often grows in dense
stands and on moist substrates, conditions which provide cool bedding
areas for moose [3].  Black spruce also provides good cover for spruce
grouse [37].  In the Lake States, spruce grouse are dependent upon black
spruce stands for much of their habitat needs.  The ruby-crowned
kinglet, magnolia warbler, Cape May warbler, and ovenbird commonly nest
in black spruce [38].
  • 3.  Allen, Arthur W.; Jordan, Peter A.; Terrell, James W. 1987. Habitat        suitability index models: moose, Lake Superior region. Biol. Rep. 82        (10.155). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and        Wildlife Service. 47 p.  [11710]
  • 37.  Johnston, William F. 1977. Manager's handbook for black spruce in the        North Central States. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-34. St. Paul, MN: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest        Experiment Station. 18 p.  [8684]
  • 38.  Johnston, William F.; Smith, Thomas M. 1983. Black spruce. In: Burns,        Russell M., tech. comp. Silvicultural systems for the major forest types        of the United States. Agric. Handb. No. 445. Washington, DC: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 96-98.  [13821]

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Nutritional Value

Data from a nutritional study of black spruce needles collected in the
winter on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska are presented below [21]:

            (percent chemical composition and caloric content)
                            range           mean  

protein                   4.4 - 6.5          5.7
fat                       5.5 - 7.1          6.2
crude fiber              21.7 - 23.5        22.47
ash                       1.9 - 2.8          2.33

Kilogram calories/100 g   502 - 517        508.9

In this study black spruce had a higher fat and caloric content than
white spruce, but a lower ash content.

Black spruce seeds are not as nutritious as white spruce seeds.  In
Alaska, black spruce seeds averaged 6,053 cal/g, about 9 percent less
than white spruce seeds [11]. 
  • 11.  Brink, C. Holden; Dean, Frederick C. 1966. Spruce seed as a food of red        squirrels and flying squirrels in interior Alaska. Journal of Wildlife        Management. 30(3): 503-512.  [13253]
  • 21.  Ellison, Laurence. 1966. Seasonal foods and chemical analysis of winter        diet of Alaskan spruce grouse. Journal of Wildlife Management. 30(4):        729-735.  [9735]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Browse:  Livestock and wild ungulates rarely eat black spruce.  Moose
occasionally browse saplings, but white-tailed deer eat it only under
starvation conditions [27].  Spruce grouse feed entirely on spruce
needles during winter.  In Alaska, spruce grouse subsist on a diet of
spruce needles from early November through March [21].  Black spruce is
a major food of snowshoe hares, especially in winter.  One study found
that consumption of black spruce by hares in interior Alaska varied
seasonally as follows [69]:

                Dec-March   April    May    June-Sept   Oct-Nov
                     (percent composition in diet)

needles           38.5      27.6     12.4     12.3       26.0

bark and twigs    17.0      10.0      2.7      1.9        7.8

Seed:  Numerous seed-eating birds and small mammals feed on black spruce
seed.  Red squirrels consume seed from harvested cones [42].  Mice,
voles, shrews, and chipmunks consume seeds off the ground.  Chickadees,
nuthatches, crossbills, grosbeaks, and the pine siskin extract seeds
from open spruce cones and eat seeds off the ground [31,38].
  • 21.  Ellison, Laurence. 1966. Seasonal foods and chemical analysis of winter        diet of Alaskan spruce grouse. Journal of Wildlife Management. 30(4):        729-735.  [9735]
  • 27.  Fowells, H. A., compiler. 1965. Silvics of forest trees of the United        States. Agric. Handb. 271. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 762 p.  [12442]
  • 31.  Halvorson, Curtis H. 1986. Influence of vertebrates on conifer seed        production. In: Shearer, Raymond C., compiler. Proceedings--conifer tree        seed in the Inland Mountain West symposium; 1985 August 5-6; Missoula,        MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-203. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 201-222.  [12789]
  • 38.  Johnston, William F.; Smith, Thomas M. 1983. Black spruce. In: Burns,        Russell M., tech. comp. Silvicultural systems for the major forest types        of the United States. Agric. Handb. No. 445. Washington, DC: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 96-98.  [13821]
  • 42.  Lutz, H. J. 1956. Ecological effects of forest fires in the interior of        Alaska. Tech. Bull. No. 1133. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 121 p.  [7653]
  • 69.  Wolff, Jerry O. 1978. Food habits of snowshoe hare in interior Alaska.        Journal of Wildlife Management. 42(1): 148-153.  [7443]

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Wood Products Value

The principal commercial value of black spruce is pulpwood.  It is the
most important pulpwood species in Canada, and is commercially important
in the Lake States.  It is also used occasionally for lumber and a
variety of other specialty items.  The wood is relatively light-weight
but strong [65].
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]

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Palatability

The palatability of black spruce to big game and livestock is low to
nil.

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Special Uses

The principal commercial use of black spruce both in Canada and the  United States is for making high quality pulp with balanced strength  properties. It is also used for lumber, Christmas trees, and other  products. Black spruce Christmas trees were harvested in considerable  numbers from natural stands until fairly recently, especially on poor  sites in Minnesota (26). Historically, black spruce has provided some  highly specialized products, a few of which are still used occasionally:  healing salves from spruce gum (exuded resin); beverages from twigs and  needles; aromatic distillations from needles (42); and binding material ("wattape")-  from long, split roots-for birchbark canoes.

    The spruce grouse depends mainly on black spruce stands for food and  cover (26). Birds with relatively high densities in black spruce stands  during the summer include the ruby-crowned kinglet, magnolia warbler, Cape  May warbler, and ovenbird. Birds such as the pine grosbeak, pine siskin,  and crossbills commonly feed on black spruce seed.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Leslie A. Viereck

Source: Silvics of North America

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Uses

The primary use of black spruce wood is for pulp. Lumber is of secondary importance because of the relatively small size of the trees. The trees and wood also are used for fuel, Christmas trees, and other products (beverages, medical salves, aromatic distillations). Black spruce is the provincial tree of Newfoundland.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Wikipedia

Picea mariana

Picea mariana (black spruce) is a species of spruce native to northern North America, from Newfoundland to Alaska, and south to Pennsylvania, Minnesota and central British Columbia, in the biome known as taiga or boreal forest.[1][2][3][4]

Description[edit]

Black spruce at Lake Clark, Alaska.

Picea mariana is a slow-growing, small upright evergreen coniferous tree (rarely a shrub), having a straight trunk with little taper, a scruffy habit, and a narrow, pointed crown of short, compact, drooping branches with upturned tips. Through much of its range it averages 5–15 m tall with a trunk 15–50 cm diameter at maturity, though occasional specimens can reach 30 m tall and 60 cm diameter. The bark is thin, scaly, and grayish brown. The leaves are needle-like, 6–15 mm long, stiff, four-sided, dark bluish green on the upper sides, paler glaucous green below. The cones are the smallest of all of the spruces, 1.5–4 cm long and 1–2 cm broad, spindle-shaped to nearly round, dark purple ripening red-brown, produced in dense clusters in the upper crown, opening at maturity but persisting for several years.[1][2]

Natural hybridization occurs regularly with the closely related Picea rubens (red spruce), and very rarely with Picea glauca (white spruce).[1]

It differs from P. glauca in having a dense cover of small hairs on the bark of young branch tips, an often darker reddish-brown bark, shorter needles, smaller and rounder cones, and a preference for wetter lowland areas. Numerous differences in details of its needle and pollen morphology also exist but require careful microscopic examination to detect. From true firs, such as Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir), it differs in having pendulous cones, persistent woody leaf-bases, and four-angled needles, arranged all round the shoots.

Due to the large difference between heartwood and sapwood moisture content, is easy to distinguish these two wood characteristics in ultrasound images,[5] widely used as a nondestructive technique to assess the internal condition of the tree and avoid useless log breakdown.

Older taxonomic synonyms include Abies mariana, Picea brevifolia, Picea nigra.

Ecology[edit]

Growth varies with site quality. In swamp and muskeg it shows progressively slower growth rates from the edges toward the centre. The roots are shallow and wide spreading, resulting in susceptibility to windthrow. In the northern part of its range, ice pruned asymmetric black spruce are often seen with diminished foliage on the windward side.[6] Tilted trees colloquially called "drunken trees" are associated with thawing of permafrost.[1][7]

In the southern portion of its range it is found primarily on wet organic soils, but farther north its abundance on uplands increases. In the Great Lakes States it is most abundant in peat bogs and swamps, also on transitional sites between peatlands and uplands. In these areas it is rare on uplands, except in isolated areas of northern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Black spruce taiga, Copper River, Alaska.

Most stands are even-aged due to frequent fire intervals in black spruce forests. It commonly grows in pure stands on organic soils and in mixed stands on mineral soils. It is tolerant of nutrient-poor soils, and is commonly found on poorly drained acidic peatlands. It is considered a climax species over most of its range; however, some ecologists question whether black spruce forests truly attain climax because fires usually occur at 50 to 150 year intervals, while "stable" conditions may not be attained for several hundred years.[1]

The frequent fire return interval, a natural fire ecology, perpetuates numerous successional communities. Throughout boreal North America, Betula papyrifera (Paper Birch) and Populus tremuloides (Aspen|Quaking Aspen) are successional hardwoods that frequently invade burns in black spruce. Black spruce typically seeds in promptly after fire, and with the continued absence of fire, will eventually dominate the hardwoods.

It is a pioneer that invades the sedge mat in filled-lake bogs, though often preceded slightly by Larix laricina (Tamarack), with which it may in time form a stable forest cover in swamps. However, as the peat soil is gradually elevated by the accumulation of organic matter, and the fertility of the site improves, Balsam Fir and Thuja occidentalis (Eastern Arborvitae) will eventually replace black spruce and tamarack.

The larvae of the spruce budworm moth cause defoliation which will lead to death if it occurs several years in a row, though black spruce is less susceptible than white spruce or balsam fir. Trees most at risk are those growing with balsam fir and white spruce.

Cultivation[edit]

Numerous cultivars have been selected for use in parks and gardens. The cultivar P. mariana 'Nana' is a dwarf form which has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[8]

Uses and symbolism[edit]

Black spruce is the provincial tree of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The timber is of low value due to the small size of the trees, but it is an important source of pulpwood and the primary source of it in Canada.[9] Fast-food chopsticks are often made from black spruce.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Farjon, A. (1990). Pinaceae. Drawings and Descriptions of the Genera. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3-87429-298-3.
  2. ^ a b Rushforth, K. (1987). Conifers. Helm ISBN 0-7470-2801-X.
  3. ^ a b Gymnosperm Database: Picea mariana
  4. ^ Flora of North America: Picea mariana
  5. ^ Wei, Q.; Chui, Y. H.; Leblon, B.; Zhang, S. Y. (2009). "Identification of selected internal wood characteristics in computed tomography images of black spruce: A comparison study". Journal of Wood Science 55 (3): 175. doi:10.1007/s10086-008-1013-1.  edit
  6. ^ C. Michael Hogan, Black Spruce: Picea mariana, GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. Nicklas Stromberg, November, 2008
  7. ^ Kokelj, S.V.; Burn, C.R. (2003). "'Drunken forest' and near-surface ground ice in Mackenzie Delta, Northwest Territories, Canada". In Marcia Phillips, Sarah Springman, Lukas Arenson. Proceedings of the 8th Int'l Conf. on Permafrost. Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema. ISBN 9058095827. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "Picea mariana 'Nana' AGM". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  9. ^ Powers, R.F.; Adams, M.B.; Joslin, J.D.; Fisk, J.N. (2005). "Non-Boreal Coniferous Forests of North America". In Andersson, F. Coniferous Forests (1st ed.). Amsterdam [u.a].: Elsevier. p. 271. ISBN 9780444816276. 
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Notes

Comments

To a limited extent, Picea mariana hybridizes with P . rubens , e.g., on disturbed sites in eastern Canada. Natural hybridization with P . glauca , though reported, remains unverified (A.G. Gordon 1976). 

 Because Picea mariana is a small tree, it has limited commercial value. Frequently it is harvested with P . glauca and used for pulp.

Black spruce ( Picea mariana ) is the provincial tree of Newfoundland.

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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

More info for the terms: bog, swamp

black spruce
bog spruce
swamp spruce
shortleaf black spruce

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More info for the term: natural

The genus Picea consists of about 30 species of evergreen trees found in
cool, temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Seven species of
Picea, including black spruce, are native to North America. The
currently accepted scientific name of black spruce is Picea mariana
(Mill.) B.S.P. [41].

Natural hybridization between species of Picea is common. Natural
hybrids between black and red spruce (P. rubens) are common where the
ranges of these two species overlap in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and
Quebec [65]. Although rare, natural hybrids between black and white
spruce (P. glauca) have been found in Minnesota and other areas [65].
  • 41.  Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native        and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p.  [2952]
  • 65.  Viereck, Leslie A.; Johnston, William F. 1990. Picea mariana (Mill.)        B.S.P.  black spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H.,        technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers.        Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture,        Forest Service: 227-237.  [13386]

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Synonyms

Picea mariana var. brevifolia (Peck)

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