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Black Hills SprucePicea glauca var. densata

  • Black Hills Spruce - Picea glauca var. densata
  • Black Hills Spruce - Picea glauca var. densata
  • Black Hills Spruce - Picea glauca var. densata

The Black Hills spruce is the state tree of South Dakota, and for good reason. This variety of the more widespread white spruce is found naturally only in southwest South Dakota and a small portion of northeast Wyoming. In fact, it is the only spruce native to the Black Hills region.

While not as widely known as other spruces, one tree expert claims that it is “ornamentally superior to the standard white spruce” and can be planted just about anywhere that the more common Colorado spruce will grow.


Hardiness Zones

The black hills spruce can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 2–6. View Map

Tree Type

This is an evergreen tree, keeping its foliage year-round.

Mature Size

The Black Hills spruce grows to a height of 30–60' and a spread of 15–25' at maturity.

Growth Speed Slow Growth Rate

This tree grows at a slow rate, with height increases of less than 12" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The Black Hills spruce grows in acidic, moist, gravelly or sandy loam and fine clay soils. It is drought-tolerant.

Attributes

This tree:
  • Offers a denser, more compact habit than the white spruce.
  • Is adapted to cold and is very resistant to winter injury.
  • Features dark green to blue-green needles that are somewhat rigid, sharply pointed and roughly ⅓–¾" in length. They are spirally arranged on the branch.
  • Yields cylindrical tan cones that are 1–2" long and mature in a single season. They appear in July and may persist through January.
  • Requires little pruning.
  • Grows in a pyramidal shape.
  • Works well as a windbreak/shelterbelt, privacy screen, accent planting, group planting in recreation areas and public grounds and even as a Christmas tree.
  • Cannot tolerate flooding and is sensitive to soil compaction.

Wildlife Value

The Black Hills spruce provides nesting sites for birds and makes a good winter cover. The seeds provide food for songbirds, upland ground birds and small mammals. The bark serves as food for porcupines, and the foliage is lightly browsed by deer.

History/Lore

Plains Indians used the inner bark and shoots for food and the hardened sap for gum. They collected the spruce wood for tipi poles.