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Canadian Spruce

The Picea Glauca is commonly known as Alberta Spruce, Alberta White Spruce, Black Hills Spruce, Canadian Spruce, Cat Spruce, Porsild Spruce, Skunk Spruce, Western White Spruce, as well as White Spruce

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Growing Regions

White spruce has a transcontinental distribution. It grows from Newfoundland, Labrador, and northern Quebec west across Canada along the northern limit of trees to northwestern Alaska, south to southwestern Alaska, southern British Columbia, southern Alberta, and northwestern Montana, and east to southern Manitoba, central Minnesota, central Michigan, southern Ontario, northern New York, and Maine. An isolated population also occurs in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming [45].


General Information

The currently accepted scientific name of white spruce is Picea glauca (Moench) Voss [40]. The genus Picea consists of about 30 species of evergreen trees found in cool, temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Seven species of Picea, including white spruce, are native to North America. White spruce is widely distributed across northern North America and exhibits considerable geographic variation. However, Little [40] thinks it unnecessary to distinguish varieties, although up to four have been recognized by various other authorities. Natural hybridization between species of Picea is common. Engelmann spruce (P. engelmannii) x white spruce hybrids are common where the ranges of these species overlap. Natural crosses between these species occur from central British Columbia as far south as eastern Washington and Yellowstone National Park [15]. Within this area trees at low elevations closely resemble pure white spruce, while pure Engelmann spruce tends to dominate at higher elevations. Hybrids between the species are concentrated on intervening slopes. Sitka spruce (P. sitchensis) and white spruce are sympatric in northwestern British Columbia and southwestern Alaska. Hybrids occur in this area of sympatry, and have been classified as Picea X lutzi Little. Hybrids between black spruce (P. mariana) and white spruce are relatively rare [45].

Climax white spruce forests are widespread across Alaska and
northwestern Canada.  They consist almost entirely of white spruce, but
may have scattered black spruce, paper birch (Betula papyrifera), aspen
(Populus tremuloides), and balsam poplar (P. balsamifera) present [41].
Climax stands are often broken up by extensive seral communities
resulting from forest fires.

In eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, white spruce
occurs as a climax species in pure or mixed stands.  Within the fog belt
of Quebec and Labrador, white spruce forms pure stands near the seaboard
[22].  At climax, it often codominates or forms a significant part of
the vegetation in mixed stands with red spruce (Picea rubens), balsam
fir (Abies balsamea), and black spruce.

In the Black Hills, white spruce habitat types occur at high elevations
and in cool canyon bottoms [33].  

Published classifications listing white spruce as an indicator species
or dominant part of the vegetation in habitat types (hts), community
types (cts), or ecosystem associations (eas) are presented below:

        Area                Classification          Authority

AK                         general veg. cts     Viereck & Dyrness 1980
nw AK                      general veg. cts     Hanson 1953
interior AK                postfire cts         Foote 1983
SD, WY: Black Hills        forest hts           Hoffman & Alexander 1987

AB                         general veg. cts     Moss 1955
w-c AB                     forest cts           Corns 1983
                           general veg. eas     Corns & Annas 1986
BC: Prince Rupert Forest
     Region, Interior
     Cedar-Hemlock Zone    general veg. eas     Haeussler & others 1985
    Prince Rupert Forest
     Region, Subboreal
     Spruce Zone           general veg. eas     Pojar & others 1984 

PQ: Gaspe Peninsula        forest veg. cts      Zoladeski 1988
ON                         forest eas           Jones & others 1983

Much of the information presented here is attributed to:
Uchytil, Ronald J. 1991. Picea glauca. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available at USDA Forest Service.

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