Herb: Red Spruce
Latin name: Picea rubens
Synonyms: Picea rubra
Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)
Medicinal use of Red Spruce:A tea made from the boughs has been used in the treatment of colds and to "break out" measles. The pitch from the trunk has been used as a poultice on rheumatic joints, the chest and the stomach in order to relieve congestion and pain. A decoction of the bark has been used in the treatment of lung complaints and throat problems.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:At or near sea level in the northern part of its range, where it grows in swamps, along bogs or on well-drained slopes. In the south it is found in mountain ranges, usually in thin soils.
Edible parts of Red Spruce:Young shoots. An emergency food, used when all else fails. 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 3 - 5cm in diameter. 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, it is only used 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. A gum is exuded from the tree as a result of injury to the sapwood. It is used for chewing.
Other uses of the herb:The bark has been used to make baskets. Pitch can be obtained from the trunk. The roots have been used to make thread for sewing baskets, canoe skins etc. Wood - straight-grained, soft, light, not strong. It weighs 28lb per cubic foot. Used for boxes, sash frames etc. It is also valued for its use in the pulp industry to make paper and is commonly used to produce stringed musical instruments.
Propagation of Red 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:At or near sea level in the northern part of its range, where it grows in swamps, along bogs or on well-drained slopes. In the south it is found in mountain ranges, usually in thin soils.
Known hazards of Picea rubens:The sawdust, the resin from the trunk and even the needles can cause dermatitis in some people.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.