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Picea sitchensis

Picea sitchensis - Sitka spruce

Sitka spruce grows along the west coast of North America from Alaska to California, and has many – sometimes surprising – merits. Few know that it was used in the building of one of the largest aircraft ever, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, and also for the Mosquito aircraft used in the Battle of Britain in WW-II.

This majestic tree has been used throughout history by animals, plants and man. It grows to over 90 metres, and the trunks of giants blown down in Pacific storms provide an environment suitable for many species, including a new generation of Sitka spruce, which start life growing on these so-called nurse logs.

Sitka spruce migrated into North America from Asia during the Ice Age, across the then dry Bering Strait. It was unable to cross the Rockies into the drier hinterland, however, as it is completely dependent on moisture from the Pacific Ocean, which condenses on the huge trees’ needles and drips to the ground for the roots to drink. The species has been widely planted in Europe, e.g. in Scotland, but in Finland it has proved rather frost tender and can only be expected to survive on the southwest coast and in the archipelago. At Mustila there is only a single specimen left of those planted in the early 1900s.

 

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