Sitka Spruce

(Picea sitchensis)

Canada’s tallest tree is a Sitka Spruce growing in the Carmanah Valley on the westcoast of Vancouver Island, 95 meters (315 feet) tall and 3m (10feet) in diameter. This tree is also the tallest Sitka Spruce in the world and is estimated to be 500-700 years old. These trees grow straight and tall with scaled bark that takes on the appearance of dragon scales. Needles are sharp and cones soft as silk. Massive branches support ecosystems of lush growth suspended high up in the canopy creating aerial gardens. Marbled Murrelet, a Red-listed Endangered seabird, nests in these gardens. In 1778 Captain Cook’s crew were the first Europeans to fell Sitka Spruce, in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, to replace the masts of 2 British Navy ships.


Found in lush soil near the coast, often in alluvial floodplains, where ocean air provides essential minerals with summer fog, often the only moisture during the dry months. These giants often tower over the rest of the forest structure.


Many west-coast villages maintained pitch-wells for generations as the trees continued to grow. Sitka pitch contains natural antibiotics used as medicine for burns, boils, and other skin irritants. Softened pitch was used as a caulk to waterproof canoes, harpoons, fishing gear. Tiny roots were braided for watertight hats, baskets ropes, fishing lines, and twine to sew boxes and baskets. Inner bark and young shoots were eaten raw as a source of vitamins. Typically straight with few lower branches, the trunks were used as the main structural beams for longhouses through the region.


Valued for its relatively strong and flexible wood which is light and soft, used for general construction, ship building, WWII planes and plywood. The wood has excellent acoustic properties and is used to make sounding boards in pianos and other musical instruments such as violins and guitars.

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