Herb: Mountain Spruce
Latin name: Picea engelmannii
Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)
Medicinal use of Mountain Spruce: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.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb: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.
Edible parts of Mountain Spruce: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.
Other uses of the herb: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.
Propagation of Mountain Spruce: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/October in a cold frame. Takes 12 months. Cuttings of soft to semi-ripe wood, early summer in a frame. Slow but sure.
Cultivation of the herb: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.
Known hazards of Picea engelmannii:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.