Saturday, March 26, 2011

Picea sitchensis--Sitka Spruce

The Sitka Spruce is a coastal tree, native to northern California and north into Alaska. In fact, it was named after Sitka, Alaska.

As with many other trees, it has been used for lumber and paper. But the wood is so strong and lightweight, it can be used in ways that other woods cannot. For instance, when someone builds a plane their their garage, more than likely, it will be made out of sitka spruce. You might think that Howard Huges famous aircraft, the Spruce Goose, was made out of spruce, but no, that was made mostly out of birch. However, the de Haviland Mosquito, used in WWII, was made out of Sitka Spruce, and was the fastest plane in the world when it was first manufactured. The wood is also great for ladders, oars, boats and nose cones of missiles.

The wood is very resonant and is especially useful in the manufacture of musical instruments such as pianos and guitars. Only trees over 250 years old can be used for soundboards because a large piece with no knotholes or other blemishes is needed. The trees can live to 700 years, so even a tree of 200 years is rather young.

Native Americans used the roots to make baskets and rain hats.

It is a lovely tree and is sometimes grown as an ornamental, but because it can grow more than three feet a year and get more than 100' tall, perhaps it is better for larger properties.

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