E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carrière
Sitka spruce
Pinaceae (Pine family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jim Dickson  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #3505)

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Distribution of Picea sitchensis
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This is a tall evergreen coniferous trees species that is found from southeast Alaska south to northern California.

Species Information

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Tall tree, up to 90 m tall; bark greyish-brown to purplish, scaly, thin; young twigs glabrous; main branches of tree noticably long and horizontal with drooping branchlets.
Needles sharp, flattened; standing out in all directions; pungent.
Seed cones 5-9 cm long, reddish-brown to yellowish-brown, scales rounded and finely irregularly toothed at tip; pollen cones red.
Hybridizes with P. glauca and P. engelmannii (see notes under P. glauca and P. engelmannii).

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to mesic slopes and river terraces in the lowland and montane zones; common in extreme W BC; N to SE AK and S to N CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Picea sitchensis

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 143 1440
Slope Gradient (%) 0 21 410
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 257 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(1), CDF(21), CMA(4), CWH(2580), ESSF(1), ICH(10), MH(94), MS(1), SBS(3)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-intolerant, submontane to montane, Pacific North American evergreen conifer. Occurs in hypermaritime to maritime cool mesothermal climates on nitrogen-rich soils. Avoids moisture-deficient and nutrient-deficient soils. Its occurrence increases with increasing latitude and precipitation and decreases with increasing elevation and continentality. Forms pure, open-canopy stands along the outer coast on sites affected by ocean spray and brackish water, and in advanced stages of primary succession on floodplains. Usually associated with black cottonwood, western hemlock, or western redcedar. Most productive on fresh and moist, nutrient-very rich soils within very wet cool mesothermal climates. Characteristic of hypermaritime mesothermal forests.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool mesothermal.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References