PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)

Hoo boy, there’s a lot to unpack with this one. Sitka Spruce is a giant, populating cool, foggy, moist lowlands below 2000 ft. from Oregon to Alaska. Coastal First Nations people have lived in harmony with and made use of this tree since time immemorial in myriad ways – weaving clothing, fishing line, and rope from its roots, and making waterproofing caulk and medicines from its pitch. The wood is also prized world wide for making sounding boards in stringed instruments.

One of our favorite spring time activities, and one that helps us make note of the particular time of year and the cycles of life around us, is to harvest a few of the new tender shoots at the tips of branches. The Spruce Tips are then simply dropped into a jar of water and left in the fridge for a day or two. The result is an astonishingly tasty, refreshing, and invigorating, distinctly citrusy drink – like spruce lemonade! It is packed with nutrition too, especially vitamin C and minerals.

In the wild, Sitka Spruce is a giant – 200 ft. or more. In an urban environment, it will likely be 100 ft. or less. It will also be slower growing in an urban setting and makes a great legacy tree. Plant it small, watch it grow up while you grow old, and then imagine the treasure following generations will receive by having this tree provide shade, oxygen, and support for our local ecology.