The black spruce (Picea mariana) is an evergreen coniferous tree in the Pinaceae family native to the northernmost parts of North America. It's used in everything from essential oils to fast-food chopsticks.
Venture up north to Canada and you’ll find the black spruce spanning across all 10 provinces. It’s the official tree of both Newfoundland and Labrador, where it outdoes every other tree by sheer number. You can find the black spruce stateside too, where it thrives in Alaska, the upper Northeast, and among the Great Lakes. It’s an integral part of the biome known as the boreal forest, or otherwise known as taiga.
The Latin epithet for the black spruce’s botanical name, mariana, means “of the Virgin Mary,” though it’s not entirely clear why it bears the name. What is clear, however, is the black spruce’s propensity to grow in harsh, wintery conditions.
The growth of a black spruce varies substantially depending on where it’s planted. In swamp conditions, the tree shows progressively slower growth rates. In the northernmost regions of the black spruce’s range, the trees are often seen with less foliage on the windward side. Called “drunken trees,” these tilted trees are associated with thawing of permafrost.
While the black spruce has all the characteristics of a classic spruce, such as glaucous green needles and scaly bark, Its cones are by far the smallest of all the spruces. Often less than one inch long, these cones are nearly round, with a dark purple hue that ripens to a red-brown color when mature.
In Canada, the black spruce is the primary source of pulpwood, the material used to make paper products. The tree is also used to make beer and spruce gum, a chewing material made from the resin of spruce trees that has long been used medicinally to treat coughs and heal deep cuts.
Black spruce is one of several coniferous notes found in AMASS Forest Bath, which harkens back to the coastal forests of the Canadian Pacific Northwest.