Meet a tree: The Spruce
A tree that is the center of discussions about ecology and economy has become the tree of the year 2017 in Germany. Why fight about the number one wood-supplier in Europe?
Originally the european spruce was only to be found in the taiga1. By the end of the 18th century the forests had shrunk in Germany, while the need for wood grew with the beginning of industrialisation. The spruce, frugal yet useful in any context, became popular for reforestation. The monocultures were especially susceptible to vermin and storm loss, also the needles don’t decompose as easily, which leads to a hyperactidy of the soil. What seemed as a great and quick solution at first, became a big discussion. The indiginous, deciduous forests became rare and the bark beetle found cosy homes. Since over twenty years foresters try to get back to biological diversity, though the qualities of the spruce will always assure some space for it. Today it is still to be found all over Europe, even in the south (mainly in mountain areas from 1000 m and higher).
Until the 60ies the spruce was the number one christmas tree. Then it was replaced by the caucasian fir, which has softer needles that stay fresh and on the tree longer.
The spruce grows between 40 and 50 meters high, depending on the location. It has the typical chistmast-tree-form and prickly, spicky needles. Every five to twelve years, depending on the altitude, the needles fall off. Spruces can grow older then you might think. Under good circumstances they live more then 400 years. The spruce you see on the photo above is around 140 years old.
“Old Tjikko” is a spruce that, if the legend is true, sprouted shortly after the ice age. He is supposidly 9550 years old and located in Sweden. Tests of the soil surrounding him indicate his age, though it couldn’t be proved.
The cones spread seeds once a year. They grow only in the higher level of the tree, so even without wind, they fly at least three hundred meters from the mother tree. It can take a spruce from thirty to seventy years to flower and reproduce. The male and female tree have flowers, which are both reddish.
There are over 45 different kinds of spruces, which all have very similar wood qualities. It is of a light colour and without a strong smell. Fortunate for firewood, it dries very fast. Walking through a windy forest, you can see spruces swinging in the wind, bending from side to side because though they are comparably light, flexible and soft, the wood has a good stability.
Thanks to those qualities, it is easy to work with this wood, the downside is that it gets worn off quiet fast. It easily gets marks from pressure, which should be considered for the transportation. The soft structure is inviting for fungal attacks, moisture so strong usage is not for this wood, unless a regular replacement seems to make sense.
If you ever passed a freshly cut spruce or a „storm victim“ you probably enjoyed a pleasant smell that goes straight into your lungs and connects you with the forest. That smell comes from essential oil, that can be used to heal inside and out. It is applied for rheumatism treatments, to strengthen the immune system, to heal the rispiratory system and multiple other physical problems. Also it helps to release emotional blockades, to find inner balance and to ground oneself.
1Taiga: coniferous forest in the northern hemisphere, 9% of the earths surface
Click here for compressed info about the tree, take it to the forest, identify and meet the spruce!