Monthly Archives: February 2014

Engelmann Spruce, Picea engelmannii

Engelmann Spruce

Picea engelmannii treePicea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm.

(pie-SEE-uh  eng-guhl-MAN-ee-i)

Names: Engelmann Spruce was named after George Engelmann, a St. Louis physician, botanist, and Colorado plant collector, whose botanical collection became the now world-famous Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.) .

Distribution of Engelmann Spruce from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Engelmann Spruce from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

 

 

Distribution:    Engelmann Spruce is native to British Columbia and Alberta, south to Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico.  In Washington and Oregon, it is mostly limited to the subalpine forests on the eastern side of the Cascades, with just a few, but some of the biggest in the Olympic Mountains.

Growth: The largest Engelmann Spruce is along the North Cascade Highway and is over 220 feet (67m) tall!   Typically, they only reach 120-150 feet (35-45m).  These trees typically live over 400 years. You can find stunted and dwarfed Engelmann Spruces “Krummholz” in subalpine regions.

Engelmann Spruce, Glacier National Park

Engelmann Spruce, Glacier National Park

 

 

Habitat: Engelmann Spruce is shade tolerant and will grow in a forest understory until a disturbance allows it to replace the canopy species.  It also is able to withstand cold temperatures and is often found growing in cold air drainages coming down from the mountains.

 

Wetland designation: FAC, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.Spruce habitat

Picea engelmannii coneDiagnostic Characters: Engelmann Spruce can be distinguished from Sitka Spruce by its 4-sided needles that can be felt when rolled between your fingers.

In the landscape: Engelmann Spruce can be used in large-scale plantings, in parks or along highways.

Nursery at Glacier National Park

Nursery at Glacier National Park

Propagation requirements Stored seeds should not be allowed to dry out.  Seeds need no stratification and should be planted early in the spring on the surface of a mixed mineral/organic soil. Cuttings from current year’s growth, with a heel of older wood, is most successful when treated with 3000ppm IBA, and stuck into sand. Cuttings may be taken from June to October.  Layering is also an option.

Use by People: The wood is not used much in the Cascades due to its relative scarcity and inaccessibility. In other regions, it is used for high quality lumber and for paper pulp. Natives did not use it much either, because it was not near where they lived or hunted.

 

Krummholz—Elfin Trees

Trees that are modified by their habitat in the subalpine regions of mountains are given the name “Krummholz” (“crooked tree” in German).  The “Krummholz Zone” is the area characterized by these dwarfed and twisted trees just below the Alpine Zone.  Typical species include Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis), Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii), and Subalpine Larch (Larix lyallii).

Krummholtz

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service Fire effects information system

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech Fact Sheet + Landowner Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

Sitka Spruce, Picea sitchensis

Sitka Spruce                                                           The Pine Family–Pinaceae

Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carriere

(Pie-SEE-uh  sit-CHEN-sis)

Picea sitchensis, Sitka SpruceNames: Sitka Spruce is another one of our giant conifers.  Sitka is the name of a Tlingit tribe, and is also the name of a city in southeastern Alaska.  The species name sitchensis is derived from Sitka.

Relationships: There are about 40 species of spruce world wide, seven in North America.   The Engelmann Spruce, Picea engelmannii, is commonly found on the east side of the Cascade mountain crests in subalpine forests.

 

 

Distribution of Sitka Spruce from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Sitka Spruce from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution: Sitka Spruce is mostly found along the moist coasts of southeastern Alaska, south to northern California.  It lends its name to the Picea Sitchensis Ecological Zone, a long narrow zone that stretches along these coasts.  It is distinguished by frequent summer fogs and proximity to the ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

The Largest Sitka Spruce near Lake Quinault.

The Largest Sitka Spruce near Lake Quinault.

 

Growth: Sitka Spruce typically reach 180 to 225 feet (55-70m).  The tallest are over 250 feet (75m) tall.  The largest is at a resort on Lake Quinault and has a diameter greater than 17 feet (5m)!  Most of the giants are found in Olympic National Park, Vancouver Island, and the northern Oregon Coast.  The oldest are over 1300 years old.

Lake Quinault Sitka Spruce, with the YMCA Camp Seymour Naturalists, Spring 1998

Lake Quinault Sitka Spruce, with the YMCA Camp Seymour Naturalists, Spring 1998

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Habitat: Sitka Spruces often start their lives on nurse logs and can grow quickly when young. They grow best in moist, foggy rainforests where they can attain great size.

Wetland designation: FAC, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

Diagnostic Characters: Most spruces are easy to identify due to their prickly, very sharp, needle-like leaves.  It is true for Sitka Spruce as well.  It hurts to grab a hold of a branch!  The needles are light green or sometimes a silvery bluish-green.  The cones are 1-3 inches (2.5- 7.5cm) long and are thin with wavy, irregularly toothed scales.

In the landscape: It can be used as a large specimen tree.

Sitka Spruce cones

Sitka Spruce cones

Phenology: Bloom Period:  Late April-Early June.  Cones mature in late August/ early September; seed dispersal begins in October.

Propagation: Stored seeds should not be allowed to dry out.  Seeds need no stratification and should be planted early in the spring on the surface of a mixed mineral/organic soil. Cuttings from current year’s growth, with a heel of older wood, is most successful when treated with 3000ppm IBA, and stuck into sand. Cuttings may be taken from June to October.  Layering is also an option.

Sitka Spruce at the nursery

Sitka Spruce at the nursery

 

Use by People: The roots of Sitka Spruce were used by natives for basketry and hats. The pitch was chewed for pleasure and for caulking canoes.  Many Sitka Spruce trees were felled during the early part of last century for the manufacture of airplanes and boats that were used during World Wars I & II.  The wood is also valued for its resonant quality and is used in making pianos and guitars.

Use by Wildlife: The foliage and twigs of spruce are browsed by grouse, rabbits and deer.  The seeds are a valuable food for various birds, squirrels and chipmunks.  The trees provide excellent nesting, roosting and winter cover.

**Note it is best to avoid planting the Colorado Spruce, Picea pungens, in the Pacific Northwest.  It is extremely susceptible to spruce aphids or adelgids, which cause it to loose its older needles.  Sitka Spruce or White Fir, Abies concolor, are a much better choices if you want a tree with bluish or silvery foliage.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson eFlora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service Fire effects information system

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech Fact Sheet + Landowner Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana

Tsuga mertensiana, Mountain HemlockNames: The Mountain Hemlock, as the name suggests, occurs in the mountains up to the timberline and in subalpine parkland.  Hemlock trees are sometimes called “Hemlock Spruces” to differentiate them from the herbaceous Poison Hemlock, which is in the Parsley Family. The name “Tsuga” comes from Japanese words meaning “mother” and “tree.”  The species is named after German botanist, Franz Karl Mertens.

 

Distribution of Mountain Hemlock from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Mountain Hemlock from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution: Mountain Hemlock is native along the coast of southeastern Alaska and British Columbia, the mountains of Washington and Oregon to the High Sierras of California.  It is also found in the Rockies of northern Idaho and Montana.

Growth: In its native habitat, Mountain Hemlock grows very slowly due to the long winters.    Subalpine dwarfs may only reach 10 feet (3m).  It grows more quickly in lowland areas, typically up to 100 feet (30m). The tallest trees are over 175 feet (50m).  The oldest are known to be over 500 years old but some may be over 1000 years old.

Mountain hemlocks bend down under the weight of the snow.

Mountain hemlocks bend down under the weight of the snow.

 

Habitat: In the northern part of its range (British Columbia and Alaska), Mountain Hemlock is associated with bogs, and wet areas. It is adapted to deep snow and long winters. It can grow at near freezing temperatures and is can withstand many months covered in snow. The trunks are so flexible that trees bend under the weight of the snow, creating interesting shapes in the snow reminiscent of shepherd’s crooks, snails and embryos.  The trees spring upright again after the snow melts.  It is less shade tolerant than Western Hemlock.

 Wetland designation: FACU, Facultative upland, it usually occurs in non-wetlands.

 

Needles of Mountain Hemlock.

Needles of Mountain Hemlock.

 

Diagnostic Characters: Mountain Hemlock can be distinguished from Western Hemlock by the following characters:  The leader droops only slightly; the needles are of equal length and are arranged radially around its twigs; and the cones are larger (1-5 inches or 2.5-12.5cm).  The branches also tend to sweep upward at the tips.

Bright green lichen grows above the snow line in Crater Lake National Park.

Bright green lichen grows on the trunks of Mountain Hemlocks above the snow line in Crater Lake National Park.

 

 

Tsuga mertensiana cluster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Landscape: Some consider the Mountain Hemlock to be the best native conifer for a small garden.  It can be used as a specimen tree in a container or to create a focal point in a rock garden.  It creates a picturesque scene when planted in clumps or drifts.  Lowland gardeners may be disappointed, however, if they expect their Mountain Hemlock to have the same appearance as the stunted, twisted dwarfs in subalpine meadows.

Mountain Hemlock cones

Mountain Hemlock cones

Phenology: Bloom Period:  Mid-May to Mid July. Cones ripen and open from late September to November.

Propagation: Mountain Hemlock can be grown using fresh seed, stratified at 40ºF (4ºC) for 90 days.  Vegetative propagation, cuttings and layering, is possible using the same methods as for Western Hemlock.

 

 

 

Mountain Hemlock Bonsai from the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection in Federal Way.

Mountain Hemlock Bonsai from the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection in Federal Way.

 

Use by People: Mountain Hemlock is not used much commercially because of its inaccessibility in high altitudes, but where it is used; it is generally marketed with and used the same as Western Hemlock.

Use by Wildlife: Squirrels make caches of the cones in the snow. Blue Grouse eat the buds and leaves.

 

 

 

 

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

Western Hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla

Western Hemlock                            The Pine Family–Pinaceae

Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.

(TSOO-guh   het-er-oh-FILL-uh)                                   

Tsuga heterophylla, Western HemlockNames:   The genus name “Tsuga” comes from Japanese words meaning “mother” and “tree.” The species name heterophylla, literally means different leaves.  This refers to the different lengths of needles found along a branch. Hemlock trees are sometimes called “Hemlock Spruces” to differentiate them from the herbaceous Poison Hemlock, which is in the Parsley Family.

Relationships:    Of the 10 species of this genus, 6 are native to eastern Asia, and 2 to eastern North America.  The Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, also occurs in our area mostly in the Mountains.

 

Distribution of Western Hemlock from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Western Hemlock from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution:    Western Hemlock occurs from the southern coast of Alaska to the northern coast of California and the Cascade Range of central Oregon.  It also occurs in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, Montana and Idaho.  Western Hemlock is considered the climax species in most of our area.  That means that, in theory, if forests are left alone and allowed to grow undisturbed indefinitely, Western Hemlock would be the dominant species.  The Western Hemlock Ecological Zone extends from British Columbia through the Puget Sound Region south to Oregon where it splits along the Coast Ranges and Western Cascades.  It is bounded by the Sitka Spruce Zone along the coast in the west and the Subalpine Zone in the Cascade Mountains in the east.

Young Western Hemlock with a drooping leader.

Young Western Hemlock with a drooping leader.

 

 

Growth:    Western Hemlock typically grows 150-195 feet (45-60m).  The tallest Western Hemlock is over 240 feet (73m) tall.  The oldest are over 1200 years old.

Habitat:    Seedlings of Western Hemlock often begin life on the decaying wood of “nurse logs.” or stumps in the shade of Douglas Firs. They usually start out growing slowly in the shade, much faster in full sunlight when an event occurs that opens it up to the sun. By studying the different sizes of growth rings you can often tell when a tree was growing in shade vs. sun.  It grows on fairly dry to wet sites and is very shade tolerant.

Wetland designation: FACU-, Facultative upland, it usually occurs in non-wetlands.

The different sized needles of Western Hemlock

The different sized needles of Western Hemlock.

Diagnostic Characters:  Western Hemlock is usually recognized by its drooping top and its different-sized needles in flat sprays.  Its small, woody cones are usually less than an inch (2.5cm) long.

In the Landscape:   The fine textured, fern-like foliage of Western Hemlock gives it a graceful, delicate appearance.  This beautiful tree can be grown singly, in drifts or used as a screen.

Western Hemlock cones

Western Hemlock cones

 

Phenology:   Bloom Period:  Mid-spring –Mid-April is typical, but may range from March-June (earlier in southern coastal areas, later at high elevations, interior and northern stands). Cones begin to mature in August; seeds are fully ripe by mid to late September but cones do not open until October.

Propagation:  For the best results, seeds of Western Hemlock should be stratified at 40ºF (4ºC) for 90 days.  Sown seeds should not be covered; they germinate on the surface of the soil.  Seed can be stored up to 5 years at 32ºF (0ºC).  Propagation by cuttings is difficult but possible with hormone treatment, misting and bottom heat.  Western Hemlock has been grown successfully in the laboratory using micropropagation techniques.  For small quantities, hemlocks may be propagated by layering.

A bonsai of Western Hemlock at the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection in Federal Way

A bonsai of Western Hemlock at the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection in Federal Way.

Use by People:   Western Hemlock is the second most important timber tree in the northwest.  The lumber is sold as “Hem-Fir” and is used for making treated lumber.  It is one of the best pulpwoods for making paper products.  It is also a principal source of cellulose fiber used for making cellophane and other products. Natives mostly used the wood for firewood. Young trees and saplings were used for poles and fish traps.  The bark was used to make a reddish brown dye or paint and as a tanning agent. The pitch of hemlock was used on the face, cosmetically and to prevent chapping.

Use by Wildlife:    Hemlocks are favorite nesting trees for many birds.  Pine Siskins, Crossbills, Chickadees and Deer Mice eat the seeds.  Porcupines and Douglas Squirrels and other mammals also eat the bark. Deer and elk eat the foliage and twigs.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet + Landowner Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees