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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Picea sitchensis - Sitka Spruce

The sitka spruce is a huge tree rarely seen planted in landscapes. Native to the PNW up to Alaska but only along the coast. Grows up to 300' in its native habitat. The only two I have seen planted here are at Rio Del Mar Elementary and New Brighten middle schools. The schools look identical as do the landscapes so I guess they had the same architect.


Leaves are needle like, arranged spirally on the stems, older stems with the leaves forming 2 rows but not like most firs. Leaves leaning forward on most stems. Each leaf is about 1" long and has a very sharp point. Leaves are 4-sided like all spruce trees but these are put in the "flat" group. They can not easily be rolled between your fingers. Upper surface is medium to dark green while the lower surface has 2 distinct white bands. Its these white bands that give the tree a bluish cast.






Young stems are orangish red colored and like all spruce trees they are rough to the touch due to the small projections (pulvinus) at the base.




Cones are variable in size ranging from 1-1/2 to 3-1/2" long. Light brown or tan when mature, purplish when ripening in the tree. Scales are papery, somewhat undulated and notched at the tip. (Resemble Colorado blue spruce and Engleman spruce cones.)




Trunks can be huge with a buttressed base, but in cultivation I don't think you are likely to see that. Rough like all spruce trees, broken up into smaller plates, gray brown in color.



Misidentification
Colorado blue spruce as the cones and the potential bluish foliage can be similar. The Colorado spruce has longer leaves, much sharper and are generally held perpendicular to the stem.

Location
Aptos
Rio del Mar Elementary school at 819 Pinehurst Drive.

Capitola
New Brighten Middle School on Washburn Ave (seems like its really on Monterey Ave).

Santa Cruz
High St and Spring St at the church.

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