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Sitka spruce, (Picea sitchensis,) known also as tideland spruce, coast spruce, and yellow spruce, is the largest of the world's spruces and is one of the most prominent forest trees in stands along the northwest coast of North America.
Alaska didn't become a state, officially, until 1959. When it entered the union, it brought with it an official state seal, flag, flower, bird and a song all adopted by the Alaska Territorial Legislature.
Sitka spruce is associated with western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla.) House Bill No. 325 proposed the Sitka spruce, "the most valuable tree species in Alaska," as the official state tree of Alaska. The state legislation was approved and the Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) became the official tree of the state on February 28, 1962.
This coastal species is seldom found far from tidewater, where moist maritime air and summer fogs help to maintain humid conditions necessary for growth. Throughout most of its range from northern California to Alaska, Sitka spruce is associated with western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) in dense stands where growth rates are among the highest in North America. It is a valuable commercial timber species for lumber, pulp, and many special uses (15,16).
Usually growing to about 70m, the Sitka Spruce has distinctive 4-sided needles, which are somewhat flat, and very pointed and sharp. These needles are hard to roll between the thumb and forefinger. They are yellowish or bluish green with a whitish bottom. The seed cones have jagged, irregularily toothed scales.
Sitka Spruce, coast spruce, tideland spruce, tidewater spruce
Picea is Latin for pitch, and sitchensis refers to Sitka, Alaska, the area where the tree was first sighted by Europeans. "Spruce"in Henry VIII's time, meant smart, dapper, or in fashion. By the 19th century 'spruce up' meant to tidy, and was also a reference to anything from Prussia, which is where spruce (not the Sitka Spruce) originated.
The law designating the itka spruce as the official Alaska state tree is found in the Alaska Statutes, Title 44, Chapter 44.09, Section 44.09.070.
TITLE 44. STATE GOVERNMENT.
CHAPTER 44.09. STATE SEAL, FLAG AND EMBLEMS.
Sec. 44.09.070. State tree.
The Sitka spruce (picea sitchensis), which is recognized as the most valuable tree species in Alaska and which is found in both national forests of the state, is the official tree of the state
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Sitka Spruce
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Coniferophyta - Conifers
Family: Pinaceae - Pine family
Genus: Picea A. Dietr. - spruce
Species: Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carrière - Sitka spruce