A tree already over 150 ft high in Great Britain, occasionally 250 ft in its native state, bark scaling; young shoots very stiff, not downy, yellowish. Leaves standing out stiffly all round the branchlet, but thinnest underneath; 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long, 1⁄12 to 1⁄20 in. wide, prickly pointed, green, mostly without stomata on the supper surface, silvery, with two bands of stomata beneath. Cones blunt, cylindrical, shortly stalked, 21⁄2 to 4 in. long, about 11⁄4 in. wide, pale brown; scales oval-oblong, 1⁄2 to 5⁄8 in. long, rounded and toothed towards the apex; seeds 1⁄8 in. long, with a wing thrice as long.
Native of western N. America, near the coast, from Alaska to California; discovered in 1792 by Menzies; introduced by Douglas in 1831. The Sitka spruce is, above all, a moisture-loving tree, thriving best where the soil is permanently on the wet side. It grows admirably in the wet valleys of Scotland, forming in the open a broad pyramid. As an isolated tree it has, even in Scotland, the defect of retaining its inner branches and twigs after they are dead, and these the outer fringe of living growth is not dense enough to hide. Under such conditions it will make growths 4 ft long in a season, and attain a height of 100 ft in thirty years.
In commercial forestry, Sitka spruce has come to be of more importance than any other conifer, being well adapted to the cool, humid climate of the north and west, where most of the land available for afforestation now lies. The area under Sitka spruce amounted in 1965 to 612,000 acres, and was then being extended at the rate of 36,000 acres each year, which is far more than the annual planting of all other forest trees combined. Its timber equals that of Norway spruce in quality, and is produced rather more quickly.
Virtually all the notable specimens of Sitka spruce are in Scotland, and the oldest of these are mostly from the reintroduction by Jeffrey for the Oregon Association in 1851. These are now well over 100 ft high and a few have reached 150 ft or even more, and the girths are in the range 15 to 20 ft for the most part.