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NEWS RELEASE No: 146938 JUNE 2011

Report brings together 90 years’ research into Britain’s most important timber tree

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A Research Report that brings together in a single authoritative document the results of almost 90 years of research into the properties and product performance of Sitka spruce trees, wood and end-products has been published by the Forestry Commission.

Sitka spruce is the main conifer tree species grown in Great Britain, and the commercial wood products industry is primarily based on it.

Entitled “Wood properties and uses of Sitka spruce in Europe”, the report synthesises the results of research by a wide range of people and organisations including the Forestry Commission and Forest Research, the Forest Products Research Laboratory, the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the Timber Research & Development Association (Trada), and several British universities.

Some of the material has been obtained from previously unpublished sources, and the report addresses the twin challenges arising from the sheer diversity of research of simply finding and collating all the research and its results, and recognising the links between tree growth and management, cell wall structure, wood chemistry, timber processing and end-product performance.

The report is written for forest scientists, engineers, wood processors and end users of wood products who are seeking a better understanding of the material properties and potential end uses of Sitka spruce. It is divided into three parts:

  • the origins of Sitka spruce, its introduction into Britain from North America, and its growth and management in this country;
  • Sitka spruce wood properties, including wood anatomy, general wood structure, and physical and mechanical properties; and
  • an overview of the end products that are produced from Sitka spruce or that could potentially be produced in the future.

Welcoming the report’s publication, Roger Coppock, Head of Specialist Advisors at the Forestry Commission, said,

"This report is one of the key deliverables from the Strategic Integrated Research into Timber (SIRT) project, a collaborative programme led by Edinburgh Napier University in partnership with Forest Research and Glasgow University. It combines important earlier research with the exciting new discoveries of the SIRT programme to provide the key reference source for anyone with an interest in the UK's most important commercial tree species."

The author is Dr John Moore of Edinburgh Napier University’s Forest Products Research Institute, and the Foreword was written by John Kissock OBE, Chair of the Forest Industries Advisory Board.

It is available, priced £14.00, from Forestry Commission Publications, PO Box 501, Leicester LE94 0AA; 0844 991 6500;; citing stock code FCRP015.


  • Sitka spruce (botanical name Picea sitchensis) is a native of the western seaboard of the United States and Canada that was introduced to Britain in 1831. It has proved very successful as a timber-producing species in British conditions, particularly in wetter northern and western regions. It grows comparatively fast, producing sawlogs in 40 to 60 years, is easily sawn and worked, and its strong, white fibres make it suitable for a wide range of uses, including construction and paper making. It was used for aircraft frames and propellers during the first half of the 20th century, notably the Wright brothers’ pioneering machine, Sopwith Camels, and the famous World War II Mosquito fighter-bombers. It is still used in gliders.

Media contact: Charlton Clark 0131 314 6500