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Managing black spruce forests

Quick facts

  • Black spruce is mainly found on soils with peat and muck.
  • Rotation lengths for black spruce range from 60 to 140 years.
  • Seedling establishment requires a ground surface that is moist and free from competing plants.
  • A broadcast burn eliminates woody debris, undesirable small trees and shrubs.
  • Clear-cutting blocks or strips is the best method for harvesting and reproducing black spruce.
Black spruce forest

Black spruce is almost exclusively grown for pulpwood. In the past, Christmas trees were cut from the top 3 feet of old trees that were 20 to 35 feet tall and growing on poor sites.

The spruce grouse depends on the black spruce for most of its habitat needs, and several songbirds use this forest type in summer.

Growing conditions

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Regenerating black spruce

Black spruce stands 40 years or older have a near-continuous seed supply because cones stay on the trees and shed their seed over several years. Plus, seed crops rarely fail.

Reproduction by layering is common, where lower branches of a tree are covered with soil and the branch develops roots and creates a new tree.

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Thinning saplings and controlling brush

Thinning overstocked sapling and poletimber stands (tree diameters from 4 to 10 inches) is not economical and may lead to increased wind damage.

Although black spruce is shade-tolerant, a dense overstory of undesirable shrubs or hardwoods may severely suppress seedling growth. In these situations, control brush to release the spruce.

Pest management

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Mel Baughman, emeritus Extension forester

Reviewed in 2018

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