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Black spruce

A young black spruce tree.

Black spruce is a small, narrow evergreen tree with a spire-like crown.  It has descending branches, with dark, bluish-green needles, and upturned ends. Lower limbs sweep the ground. It is an excellent choice for cold northern climates and tolerant of wet sites. 

Botanical name:

Picea mariana

All Common Names:

Black spruce, Bog spruce, Swamp spruce

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale:

  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Specimen,
  • Shade tree

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet),
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 2,
  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Wet soil


  • Occasional drought,
  • Wet sites

Season of Interest:

  • Early winter,
  • Mid winter,
  • Late winter,
  • Early spring,
  • Mid spring,
  • Late spring,
  • Early summer,
  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall,
  • Late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Narrow,
  • Pyramidal,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:

Size& Form

30 to 50 feet high and 20 to 30 feet wide.
The tree is very narrow and  conical to spire-like with descending branches. Lower limbs sweep the ground.

Tree & Plant Care

Does best in cold northern climates.  It may be stressed in warm summers or below zone 6 temperatures.
The shallow, spreading root system benefits from a 3-4” layer of organic mulch.
Spruce need very little in the way of pruning.
All evergreens experience seasonal needle fall in autumn.  The interior, older needles turn brown and drop. 

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious disease or insect problems but needle rusts and cankers can occur.
Due to its shallow root system, black spruce is prone to wind throw (uprooting by wind).

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to northern North America, from Newfoundland to Alaska, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and central British Columbia. In its more southern range it is found growing around bogs and swamps. 

Attracts birds & butterflies

Twigs, leaves and seeds are important wildlife food. Very valuable as nesting sites for birds. 

Bark color and texture 

Bark is dark gray, thin and scaly.  As bark breaks into scales, the inner green bark is revealed.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Blue green, stiff needles are attached singly to the stem, paler underneath. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

The cones are the smallest of all of the spruces, rounded to spindle-shape, dark purple ripening red-brown, produced in dense clusters in the top of the tree. Cones are known to persist for several years.

Location of Picea mariana (Black spruce) at the Arboretum