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Alaska State Tree
(Pinaceae Picea sitchensis)
Adopted in 1962.
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.
After becoming a state, the state fish (Chinook salmon) and a state tree (Sitka spruce) were the first
new symbols to be recognized in 1962
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).
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.
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.
Identification of the Sitka Spruce
- Leaf: Single, linear, spirally arranged; 1 inch long with a very sharp tip, needles point perpendicular and forward on the twig; yellow-green above with white bloom below. Each needle borne on a raised, woody peg (sterigma).
- Flower: Monoecious; male cones erect or pendent; female cones green to purple and borne near the top of the tree.
- Fruit: Oblong cones, 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long with thin, woody, spirally arranged scales that have very thin, notched edges and are tan when mature. Cones ripen in one growing season and occur near the top of the tree.
- Twig: Current year's twigs are moderately stout and yellow-brown to orange-brown. All twigs are covered with numerous distinct woody pegs (sterigmata).
- Bark: On young trees, bark is thin and scaly, usually gray. On mature trees it's usually less than 1 inch thick; gray to brown and scaly.
- Form: Sitka spruce is the largest of all spruces. It commonly is 125 to 180 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet in diameter, but can be much larger. Crown is open with somewhat pendulous branches; branches commonly reach the ground and dead branches are retained for a long time. Base of trees are commonly swollen and buttressed.
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 of the Sitka Spruce
||Plantae -- Plants
||Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
||Spermatophyta --Seed plants
||Pinaceae --Pine family
||Picea A. Dietr. --spruce
||Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr. --Sitka spruce
Dendrology at Virginia Tech
US Department of Agriculture
All of the state trees, except the Hawaii state tree, are native to the state in which they are designated.