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Picea rubens (Red spruce)
Beckers, Eric

Picea rubens

Picea rubens Sarg.

Red Spruce, Yellow Spruce, West Virginia Spruce, Eastern Spruce, He-balsam

Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Synonym(s): Picea australis


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

Though still decidedly conical, red spruce forms a broader crown than other eastern spruces, and its needles are a brighter, yellower green. This evergreen grows 60-100 ft. tall, sometimes taller. The only spruce southward in eastern mountains, a handsome tree with broad or narrow, conical crown.

Extensive virgin spruce-fir forests are preserved in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This species is a handsome ornamental; the wood has uses similar to White Spruce (Picea glauca). Spruce gum, a forerunner of modern chewing gum made from chicle (gum from a tropical American tree), was obtained commercially from resin of both Red and Black spruce (Picea mariana) trunks. The young leafy twigs were boiled with flavoring and sugar to prepare spruce beer. Where the ranges overlap, Black Spruce is distinguishable from Red by its smaller dull gray cones curved downward on short stalks and remaining attached.


From the Image Gallery

10 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 130 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Red, Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: CT , DE , MA , MD , ME , NC , NH , NJ , NY , PA , TN , VA , VT , WV
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: P.E.I. to s.e. Ont., s. to CT & NY; also mts. to NC & TN
Native Habitat: Wooded, upland slopes

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Where humidity and rainfall are high, red spruce can grow to 150 ft. This species is not well suited to cultivation. Often defoliated by spruce budworm.


Use Wildlife: Twigs, leaves and seeds are important wildlife food. Very valuable as nesting sites for birds.
Use Medicinal: A cure for scurvy was made by boiling young twigs, adding molasses, honey or maple sugar and allowing the liquid to ferment. (Hosie)
Use Other: Red spruce has one precious quality for which it is cut in small but choice amounts, and this is its resonance. The wood selected for musical instruments is chosen with exquisite care. It must have an absolutely uniform texture and be free from all defects and irregularities of grain. Spruce measures up to these qualifications in the highest degree. It is preferred for guitars, organ pipes, piano sounding boards, and violin bellies. (Peattie)
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Picea rubens in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Picea rubens in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Picea rubens


Record Modified: 2022-09-21
Research By: TWC Staff

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