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Sitka spruce - picea sitchensis

SITKA SPRUCE PLANTATION. THICKET STAGE. KIELDER FD.The Sitka Spruce is named after a place called Sitka in Alaska although its natural range is all along the coast of NW America. It was introduced to Britain in 1831 and is therefore  a non native conifer.  The tree grows with a very straight conical shape trunk. Long downward flowing branches hang down low from the pointed crown. 

It can grow up to 50 m or more with a trunk over 2 m in diameter.

Is greyish brown which gets curved fissures and flaky plates as it grows.

sitka flowersLeaves Flowers and Cones
Leaves are green flattened needles that grow individually. They are stiff, hard and very sharp. The red flowers are seldom seen as they are found right at the top of the older trees.  They ripen into pale brown, blunt and domed cones. The thin, hard, crinkled scales of the cones protect the seeds inside.

Where and how does the Sitka Spruce grow?

This conifer naturally grows on the west coast of North America .  It has a very fast growth rate compared to some other trees.  This means it can yield high volumes of timber in a comparatively short time. Foresters have developed models for growth or yield. The “yield class” figure is the mean cubic metres growth, for each hectare of tree species for each years growth. Sitka spruce has a yield class of 14 (14 cubic metres per hectare per year); Oak can be as low as 4. In terms of time, a Sitka spruce only needs to grow for 40 -60 years to reach its maximum timber potential. An oak can take up to and over 150 years.
The Sitka Spruce has been grown commercially for timber especially in upland locations.  Deep, moist and well drained soils are best for growth and so it flourishes in the  North and West of the country on damper and elevated sites.  Seeds dropped naturally from this conifer grow extremely well and at enormous rates;  this “natural regeneration” is encouraged in many forest sites.

Wildlife around the Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce can grow close together to make a very dense canopy.  It is difficult for sunlight to find it’s way through to the woodland floor so few plants can grow underneath them. Sitka Spruce do, however, give excellent shelter from wind, rain, cold and sometimes the heat of the sun. Larger animals such as deer and foxes like to find cover amongst the branches. Birds of prey, like Goshawks and Sparrowhawks can find excellent nesting and hunting sites on and around the Sitka Spruce.

Smaller birds such as the Crossbill, Tree Creeper, Coal tit and Siskin also enjoy living and feeding around the Sitka Spruce. picture


The wood from this tree is top quality - it is very versatile and is easy to work with. “Thinnings” (smaller trees taken from plantation) are particularly valuable for paper making as the white colour of the wood and long cellulose fibres make strong but smooth paper  

Sitka spruce wood use today
Boat and ship construction, pallets, packing boxes, board manufacture and paper making.

Last updated: 13th June 2017

What's of interest

Sitka Spruce
David Douglas introduced the Sitka Spruce to this country in 1831 along with two others planted in Ireland. It is tall and graceful and so was first grown as an “exotic” tree in many large parks and gardens. Since discovering its enormous rate of growth, the Sitka Spruce has been grown commercially as a timber producing tree.

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England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.