Picea rubens Sarg.
Red Spruce, Yellow Spruce, West Virginia Spruce, Eastern Spruce, He-balsam
Pinaceae (Pine Family)
Synonym(s): Picea australis
USDA Symbol: PIRU
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
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 130 feet tall.
Fruit: Red, Brown
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr
DistributionUSA: 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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse 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
National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
Web ReferenceWebref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Picea rubens in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Picea rubens in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Picea rubens
MetadataRecord Modified: 2022-09-21
Research By: TWC Staff