The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Spruce

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AmCyc Spruce - black spruce cones and needles.jpg
Black Spruce (Abies nigra).

SPRUCE, the name for coniferous trees of a section of the genus abies, which includes those with scattered leaves and pendent cones, the scales of which are persistent. (See Fir, Hemlock Spruce, and Pine.) The needle-shaped leaves are four-sided, and point in every direction; the cones hang from or near the ends of the branches, the scales remaining attached to the axis; the seed parting freely from the wing, and without balsamiferous vesicles; the anther cells opening lengthwise. The black, or as it is often called double spruce (A. nigra), extends from Maine to Wisconsin and further southward along the higher ranges, and in Canada reaches northward to 65°, it being partial to cold, swampy localities among the mountains. Its straight, tapering trunk, often 75 ft. high, bears a handsome conical head, if it has room to develop; but in a crowded forest the trunks are branchless, save a small tuft at the summit. The very short leaves, rarely more than half an inch long, are erect, stiff, and very dark green; the cones are 1 to 1½ in. long, dark purple when young, but when ripe (in November) pale brown; the seeds are shed the following spring, but the cones remain several years; the scales of the cones are uneven on the margin, and often notched or toothed. The wood is very strong, light, and durable, and is much used in ship building, not only for masts and spars, but in the hull, where it outlasts oak; it is much used for the sides of ladders, for the smaller timbers in house building, and for shingles. The recent shoots of this species are used in this country for making domestic beer. The tree is sometimes planted for ornament, and young specimens are very regular in form; but they get ragged as they grow older. The color of the foliage is rather sombre, and the so-called red spruce is merely a form of this with larger and redder cones and the wood tinged with red. The white or single spruce (A. alba) has a range similar to the preceding, and extends even further north than that; Richardson found it within 20 m. of the Arctic sea. The leaves are somewhat longer than those of the black spruce, and of a pale glaucous green; though the leaves are attached equally on all sides of the shoots, yet on the horizontal branches they curve upward in such a manner as to appear two-ranked; the cones, about 2 in. long, fall the first winter, and their scales have a firm, even edge. The wood of this is also valuable, some considering it not inferior to that of black spruce, and superior to it for spars; the long roots are remarkably tough, and the Indians prepare from them thongs or threads with which to sew their birch-bark canoes. The white spruce, when young, is of a regular conical shape, very compact, and its pale but lively green color makes a most effective contrast when it is planted near evergreens with darker foliage. In the forests of northern Michigan and Wisconsin, the lumbermen distinguish a blue spruce, which has more bluish leaves, while its cones are more like those of the black spruce. Several species are peculiar to the Rocky mountains and the Pacific coast; notable among these is Menzies's spruce (A. Menziesii), discovered by Douglas in northern California; it is abundant in Alaska, and extends eastward to the Rocky mountains, where it is known as balsam; it is a subalpine species, rarely found at a less elevation than 7,000 ft., and prefers low marshy soils or the margins of streams. It reaches 100 ft., but the average height is 60 or 70 ft.; it has a straight trunk and a regular pyramidal outline; the leaves are broader than in eastern species, silvery whitish beneath, very stiff, and almost spine-like; the cylindrical cones are about 3 in. long, their pale and thin scales irregular on the margin. The wood is very compact, but rather coarse-grained and resinous, and the trunks taper too rapidly to saw up to advantage. As an ornamental tree it is likely to become popular; it is quite hardy near Boston and in other northern localities; its growth in rich moist soils is very rapid. Engelmann's spruce (A. Engelmanni), 80 to 100 ft. high, was first discovered by Dr. Parry in the Rocky mountains, where it occurs from New Mexico to the head waters of the Columbia and Missouri, forming almost the entire forest growth of some of the mountain slopes, and is most luxuriant at the altitude of 9,000 to 10,000 ft.; much higher than this it becomes dwarfed; it resembles the eastern black spruce. Patton's spruce (A. Pattoniana) is a fine species found in the mountains of upper California and northward, and is described as reaching the height of 150 ft. and over.

AmCyc Spruce - Norway Spruce.jpg

Norway Spruce (Abies excelsa).

—Of the exotic spruces none is so well known as the Norway (A. excelsa), which is indeed the popular evergreen of this country; it is indigenous throughout northern Europe and Asia, in Russia and Siberia extending beyond the arctic circle, especially abundant in Norway, Sweden, and the neighboring countries, and further south in tho Alps, Pyrenees, and other ranges. It reaches a height of 120 to 150 ft. and a diameter of 3 to 5 ft., requiring a century to attain this development; when not crowded, its long stout branches spread out regularly on every side, forming a perfect pyramid; its dark green leaves are larger than in our black and white spruces, rigid and curved, and the conspicuous terminal cones are 6 or 7 in. long and pendent at maturity. The wood of the Norway spruce is of great value for many uses; sawn into boards, it forms a large part of the deals used for floors and other inside work, box making, cheap furniture, &c., while the round timber serves for masts, spars, scaffoldings, and framework; the wood is very durable, especially when the bark is left on; the bark is used for tanning. The resin of the tree rarely exudes spontaneously, but is obtained by removing a strip of bark, an inch or more wide and deep, and 3 ft. long, from the south side of the tree; the following year the groove is found filled with the turpentine, which is scraped off, and the groove enlarged by the removal of a thin strip of bark from each side of it; the product so obtained is one of the several turpentines called frankincense or thus (see Frankincense), and when melted in boiling water and strained it forms the true Burgundy pitch. (See Pitch.) The Norway spruce being so largely raised from seeds, there are numerous deviations or sports from the normal form, of which 20 or 30 are in cultivation; some vary in foliage, others are dwarfs, while a few are curious monsters; in var. inverta the branches are turned directly downward, and in var. monstrosa there is such a strong indisposition to branch, that it will throw up a leader 10 or 15 ft. high and perfectly naked. A. obovata from Siberia, and A. orientalis from the Black sea, are too near the Norway in appearance to be popular.—The Himalayan spruce (A. Smithiana), found high up the Himalaya mountains, and also in China and Japan, is a remarkably handsome species; it is not quite hardy at Philadelphia, but valuable further south.