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What Is Adirondack Spruce?

By L. Whitaker
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Adirondack spruce, also known as the red spruce or Picea rubens, is a long-lived conifer tree found in higher elevation areas of Canada as well as the American South and Northeast regions. In some places, this tree is known as the West Virginia spruce or yellow spruce. This variety of conifer tree is hardy to USDA Zone 3, and some sources indicate that it can mature to extreme age, ranging from 200 to 450 years.

In height, the Adirondack spruce can sometimes grow to be up to 141 feet (40 m) tall. This hardy tree has a typical spread of as much as 39 feet (12 m), and it grows into a slender cone shape at the crown. The Adirondack spruce produces a cone fruit that is chestnut brown and measures about an inch (2.5 cm) in length. This tree's seeds are released annually in autumn.

Sandy or loamy soil is the ideal growing environment for the Adirondack spruce. This conifer can also thrive in boggy areas or among the rocky surfaces of high mountain slopes. The red spruce is rarely used in home landscaping, and for this reason it does not tend to be easily available in nurseries for purchase by typical consumers.

A decline in specimens of red spruce forest areas appeared to occur in the Appalachian Mountain region in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This reduction in quantity of natural habitats has been attributed by some sources to the presence of air pollutants such as nitrogen and acid rain. As of 2011, the Adirondack spruce was categorized as an endangered tree species in Connecticut and New Jersey, although many areas of red spruce forest in the Northeast were not considered to be in immediate danger.

Adirondack spruce was historically used in the production of novelty food items such as spruce beer and spruce gum. The gum was a significant cash crop in the Adirondack area during the 19th century, when it was collected by people from a variety of backgrounds to be sold in local stores. In the 20th century, red spruce wood was prized for the soundboards of pianos, guitar and mandolin tops, and airplane parts. Today, these trees are valued for use as Christmas trees, and the wood of the red spruce is used in the creation of paper pulp as well as some types of designer acoustic guitars.

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