Northwest Conifers


Spruces – Picea

The spruces are easy to identify. The needles look like Douglas fir needles, but they are pointed and sharp. Unlike Douglas fir and the true firs, each spruce needle grows on a small peg. These unique pegs remain even after a branch loses its needles. The cones have paper-thin scales. The bark is gray and breaks into scales on large trees. Picea is derived from the Latin for pitch. Three species of spruce grow in the Northwest.

Sitka SpruceSitka Spruce – Picea sitchensis

Needles: Sharp, thin, flat, all around twig

Cones: 3" long, paper-thin scales

Bark: Gray, scaly

Where: Near coast and Columbia River


Engelmann spruceEngelmann Spruce
 – Picea engelmannii

Needles: Sharp, thin, 4-sided, all around twig

Cones: 3" long with paper-thin scales

Where: Above 3000 ft.


This spruce is extremely rare.

Brewer SpruceBrewer Spruce
 – Picea breweriana

Needles: Sharp, thin, on long drooping twigs

Cones: 3-6" long, rounded scales

Bark: Brown with gray scales

Where:  Rare in southwest Oregon above 3000 ft.


© 2012 Ken Denniston