Common Name: Sitka Spruce: Used to make aircraft
- Binomial Name: Picea sitchensis
- Soil Type: Moist
- Sunlight: Full sun to part shade
- Plant Type: Tree
- Form: Conical in young trees, cylindrical in mature trees
- Foliage: Evergreen needles
- Fruit/Flower: Cones
One of the giant evergreens of the Cascades, the Sitka spruce can reach heights of 230 feet. This grey-barked conifer is highly valued in the lumber industry. Spruce wood is primarily used in indoor construction, since it lacks significant weather and pest tolerance. It is also used in specialized aircraft construction.
Many aircraft produced before WWII were constructed partly out of spruce. Spruce parts were occasionally used as replacements for structurally significant aluminum parts. The Wright brothers’ first aircraft, the Flyer, was made of spruce. Sitka spruce is also commonly used in the production of guitars, pianos, violins, and harps due to its high strength-to-weight ratio and its excellence as a conductor of sound.
While Sitka is not uncommon in ornamental settings, care must be taken to protect the tree from pests like spider mites and adelgids, to which it is particularly vulnerable.
The Sitka spruce can be found in moist areas and near bogs at mid to low elevations. The native range for these trees spans from Alaska to northern California, and from the coast to the west slope of the Cascades.
The one inch, blue-green needles of the Sitka radiate stiffly out from the branches in all directions. The grey bark is thin and scaly, and flakes off in circular plates. The seed cones are cylindrical and reddish, changing to brown as they ripen.
This Native Plant of the Month is brought to you by the City of Beaverton’s Landscape and Urban Forestry Department. Visit Clean Water Service’s Native Plant Finder webpage for interactive questions to help you find the right native plant to fit your needs!