Picea mariana

There are approximately 35 species of spruce in the world. Picea mariana, or black spruce, is one of seven that are native to North America (north of Mexico). In comparison, China has sixteen native species.

Black spruce is distributed throughout Canada, Alaska and some northeastern US states, where it is typically a plant of wet organic soils (e.g., swamps and bogs) (distribution map).

Links to investigate: the Silvics of North America factsheet on Picea mariana, the always-excellent conifers.org page on the species, and Picea mariana in the Flora of North America.

I also note that the Plants for a Future database page on Picea mariana cites a reference stating that “The sawdust, the resin from the trunk and even the needles can cause dermatitis in some people.” I don’t think I ever received dermatitis from trees while walking through bogs in Manitoba, but I do recall a slight burning feeling on my forearms from the many light scratches I received from the sharp dead lower branches.

Picea mariana
Picea mariana

17 responses to “Picea mariana”

  1. Ginny (in Maine)

    Stunning photographs, thanks! We have black spruce in our bogs here in Maine but they sure don’t look as striking as these.

  2. Mary Ann, in Toronto


  3. van

    Handsome photographs. Thanks Daniel 🙂

  4. Eric in SF

    Daniel – I am allergic to the fir bark used in the orchid potting media industry. I have to wear gloves when working with the bark and if I get the dust on my skin while I’m sweating I break out pretty badly.
    I’m not sure what specie(s) are used in orchid bark – it’s always labeled “Fir Bark”.

  5. Sue in Bremerton WA

    So THAT’s what they are. Nice to know at last. By the way, the bottom photo would make one heck of a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

  6. Mary Miller

    What a joy to receive such photos!
    I live in South Florida and love tropicals . . . but this is fantastic!

  7. phillip

    ….we all should be more gracious…for living in such a beautiful world….and for people who can see such beauty…and share with the rest of us…..

  8. Eric Simpson

    Eric in SF, this is Eric in SD,
    “species” is both singular and plural.

  9. Jeanne

    Both photos are beautiful but I particularly like the second one because of all the layers – clouds, mountains, trees & water, well done.

  10. Janet A.

    Daniel, you’ve outdone yourself with these great photos! I notice some of the trees in both pictures seem to be leaning (especially on what looks like a small island in the top photo). Is that typical of Black Spruce? Also, what mountain range is that? Thanks!

  11. elizabeth a airhart

    fine pictures -i like the
    first picture -so much to look
    at and think about
    what lives in the water- do i see
    the current moveing in the first
    picture-and the blue fog on the moutains
    thank you

  12. Michael F

    “I notice some of the trees in both pictures seem to be leaning …. Is that typical of Black Spruce?”
    Yes, fairly typical, as it so often grows in unstable peat bogs, where the weight of the tree (plus load of winter snow & ice) is more than the peat can keep upright. Notice that the ones on that islet are the worst off, as they aren’t in a position to hold each other up at all.

  13. Eric in SF

    Eric – yeah, I realized that after I hit ‘post’ – c’est la vie.

  14. Douglas Justice

    Eric in SF – The kind of orchid bark commonly available in Vancouver is made from bark of older Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir), which is quite corky, unlike that of most (all?) Picea species. Douglas fir is a fire-adapted species, so the bark is relatively thick and insulative. I suspect the same material is packaged for sale across much of North America.

  15. J

    Cheers for the stunning photos & related info., Daniel! I feel a little bit smarter every time you send a BPOD email!

  16. Margaret-Rae Davis

    Such amazing photographs. And again I say thank you for all the text and links. I really enjoy opening each days Photo.
    Thank you,

  17. Alexander Jablanczy

    How you can tell a black from a red or a white spruce seedling is with the aid of a macroscope. This from my homonymous father who wasnt a botanist but a mere silviculturist.
    Black spruce cotyledons have small black bumps like fungi on the leaf, red spruce a reddish smudge on the leaf while white neither.
    Thought you might like to know if you have a loupe and the three specimens at hand.

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