NATURE TABLE: Sitka Spruce

Sitka spruce is nowadays the species of choice for forestry plantations, both private and state-owned, on poorer land.

NATURE TABLE: Sitka Spruce

This means that it is probably the commonest tree in Ireland. Conifers can be hard to tell apart.

From a distance Sitka is characterised by a bluish tinge to the foliage, close-up the stiff, thorn-like needles are a good clue to identification. Sitka is an island in the Alaskan Panhandle and the native range of this tree is a narrow coastal strip stretching down from southern Alaska as far as northern California.

It was discovered by Europeans in 1792. Young trees grow phenomenally fast in Ireland, particularly in wetter parts of the country, but, surprisingly for trees that grow in Alaska, they can be damaged by severe and prolonged frosts or very strong winds. If grown slowly it produces a very strong and supple timber that was once used in aircraft construction but fast-grown Irish timber is much weaker and most of it tends to be pulped for paper and manufactured boards.

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