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Common Name: Mountain Spruce
Picea engelmannii is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 20.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Western N. America - Alberta and British Columbia to Arizona and New Mexico.
Montane regions to the tree-line, especially by swamps[
]. Often found on poor thin rocky soils, though the best specimens are growing in deep well-drained clay-loam soils[
Likes abundant moisture at the roots, if grown in drier areas it must be given a deep moist soil[
]. Tolerates poor peaty soils[
]. Succeeds in wet cold and shallow soils but is not very wind-firm in shallow soils[
]. Prefers a pH between 4 to 6[
]. Dislikes shade[
]. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution[
]. Resists wind exposure to some degree[
]. Plants have a shallow root system and are easily wind-blown[
Often planted for its timber in N. Europe[
]. Trees are of moderate growth after a slow start, older trees often averaging over 40cm a year[
]. Trees grow better and faster in the north of Britain than in the south. This is not an easy tree to grow in Britain[
], it prefers a continental climate and, although the dormant tree is very cold hardy, the new growth in spring is very susceptible to damage by late frosts in this country[
Quite long-lived in its native range, with specimens 500 - 600 years old[
]. Seed production commences around the age of 20 - 25 years, with excellent crops every 2 - 6 years[
Closely related to P. glauca, this species also hybridizes with P sitchensis in the south of its range[
Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[
]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[
Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance[
In some upland areas, especially over granitic or other base-poor soils, growth rate and health have been seriously affected by aluminium poisoning induced by acid rain[
The crushed foliage is often said to be foetid but after the first sniff the scent is sweet and like menthol or camphor[
Plants are susceptible to damage by the green spruce aphid[
Young male catkins - raw or cooked. Used as a flavouring[
Immature female cones - cooked. The central portion, when roasted, is sweet and syrupy[
]. The cones are about 5cm long[
Inner bark - dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereals when making bread[
]. An emergency food when all else fails.
Seed - raw[
]. The seed is about 2 - 4mm long[
] and is too small and fiddly to be worthwhile unless you are desperate[
A refreshing tea, rich in vitamin C, can be made from the young shoot tips[
An infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of respiratory complaints, TB etc[
A decoction of the leaves and gum has been used in the treatment of cancer[
]. It was said that if this treatment did not work then nothing would work[
]. The decoction was also used in the treatment of coughs[
The ashes of the twigs, mixed with oil, have been used as an ointment or salve on damaged skin[
The pitch obtained from the trunk has been used in the treatment of eczema[
The bark is a source of tannin[
The branches and the roots have been shredded, pounded and used to make cord and rope[
]. (It is probably the bark that was used[
The bark has been used to make baskets and various small utensils[
Wood - close-grained, light, soft, not strong. It is used for lumber, construction, fuel and charcoal[
]. It is also valued for its use in the pulp industry to make paper[
Seed - stratification will probably improve germination so sow fresh seed in the autumn in a cold frame if possible[
]. Sow stored seed as early in the year as possible in a cold frame[
]. A position in light shade is probably best[
]. Seed should not be allowed to dry out and should be stored in a cool place[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter. They can be planted out into their permanent positions in early summer of the following year, or be placed in an outdoor nursery bed for a year or so to increase in size. They might need protection from spring frosts.
Cuttings of semi-ripe terminal shoots, 5 - 8cm long, August in a frame. Protect from frost. Forms roots in the spring[
Cuttings of mature terminal shoots, 5 - 10cm long, September/early autumn in a cold frame. Takes 12 months[
Cuttings of soft to semi-ripe wood, early summer in a frame. Slow but sure.