Picea glauca : White Spruce


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Coniferae (cone bearing)

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Genera: Picea (Spruce)

Species: glauca (Lat. glaucus=blueish-grey)

English Name(s):

White Spruce,

First Nation Names:




  • A distinguishing charactarictic is it glabrous (hairless) branchlets.
  • Largest tree in our area.
  • Tree up to 25 meters tall and diameter up to 50 cm.


  • Needle-like 1-2.5cm long.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Female cones 2.5 to 5 cm long usually about 3.5 cm long, light brown to purpleish, deciduous.
  • Male cones pale red, small, falling off.


  • Seeds winged.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • P.mariana (Black Spruce) is the only other spruce in our area. P. mariana can be distinguished by the presence of hairs, on the branchlets, between the leaves (needles).



  • Can grow shrub like at or near treeline.
  • Can reproduce vegitatively by layering but not as redily as P.mariana (Black Spruce) will.

Life Cycle:

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Both male and female cone deciduous (falling off).
  • Evergreen


Animal Uses:

  • Squirrels harvest the cones from the tree. They will store them or they will eat the seeds out of them right away.


  • Forms both the northern and alpine treeline.
  • This is the most wide spread species of tree in our area.
  • Usually in well drained situations but can grow in wet bogs and muskeg too.




  • Green branches can be used as a sleeping mat when camping.
  • Is the official tree of Manitoba.
  • The crews travelling with Captain James Cook recieved a ration of spruce beer every other day to prevent scurvy.


  • Spruce salve is long lasting and is said to have all the healing properties of the raw sap but is easier to apply.
  • Spruce salve is made by mixing animal fat or vaseline with equal amounts spruce sap in warm water when it is all liquid of even consistency it can be poured in a bottle, cooled and used when needed.


  • Spruce beer is made from the young growing tips in the spring.
  • The young branchlets can be steeped in boiling water to make a tea high in vitamin C.

Traditional Gwich'in:



    • Dead branches used as fire starter.
    • Green branches were used as flooring in tents.
    • Outer bark was used for making smoke houses. The bark was harvested in the spring.
    • Roots were used for rope, string, and for sewing the rims of baskets, skins, and birch bark boats.
    • Wood was used for many things; log houses, smoke houses, caches, stages, tool handles, and sleds.


    • Branches are sometimes boiled with the cones to make the medicinal tea.
    • Chewing the young spruce tips is good for an itchy throat and for any kind of flu or cold.
    • Cones are collected and boiled to make a tea. The longer they boil the stronger the medicine becomes. The tea is taken to relieve coughing and sore throats.
    • Inner bark was chewed on to relieve colds or to maintain good health. It could also be applied to wounds as a bandage and aided in healing. It could be dried for storage and reconstituted when needed.
    • Old sap can be used to draw out slivers by applying a mix of pitch and salve over the sliver.
    • Sap called 'sticky gum' is used to sooth irritated skin and when applied to cuts it helps healing and protects from infection.


    • Old sap called 'spruce gum' is chewed like gum and used to be given to the kids as a treat.

    Traditional Other:



      • Spruce pitch boiled and mixed with ash was used by different tribes as a seem sealer on canoes and other things.
      • The bark could be used to make canoes when no birch bark is available.
      • The bark has been used as shingles and flooring.
      • Trappers cleaned the human smell of traps by boiling the traps in water with spruce branches, alder twigs and bees wax. This protected from rusting as well.


      • Some tribes made a powder from spruce needles and dusted it on burns blisters and cuts.
      • Spruce pitch or salve was applied to cracked soles of ones foot.
      • The Chapewyan boiled young spruce cones to make a mouth wash for treating infections, toothache, sore throats and for cleaning phlegm from the throat.
      • The Chipewyan wrapped dry rotted spruce wood in a cariboo hide pounded it to a podwer. Then used the powder as baby powder preventing chaffing and acting as a deoderant.
      • The Dene treated snow blindness and eye scratches by spliting small twigs heating them and extracting the sap. A birds quill was used to apply this warm substance to the eye.



        No hairs between the leaves (needles).

        Tree in tundra habitat at treeline.

        P.mariana (Black Spruce) right P.glauca (White Spruce) left.

        P.mariana (Black Spruce) cone right P.glauca (White Spruce) cone left.

        Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

        Range Maps

        World Range: Boreal North America; From NL & Lb to BC and AK.

        Prov/State Abrev. List

        In Yukon: Widespread, north to treeline.

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