Plant of the Month - Black Hills Spruce

Plant of the Month - Black Hills Spruce

Black Hills Spruce, Acreage Insights - December 2017, http://communityenvironment.unl.edu/plant-month-black-hills-spruce
Image from the Nebraska Lower Elkhorn Natural Resource District office, http://www.lenrd.org/tree-sales/black.

December is a great month. Christmas seems to come sooner than expected each year, but a good tree is always needed. One of the top Christmas tree choices is Black Hills Spruce due to the excellent color and traditional Christmas tree appearance with branches that hold ornaments well. This spruce can be grown in your own backyard.

Black Hills Spruce, Acreage Insights - December 2017, http://communityenvironment.unl.edu/plant-month-black-hills-spruceImage from the Nebraska Lower Elkhorn Natural Resource District office, http://www.lenrd.org/tree-sales/black.

Black Hills Spruce
Picea glauca var. densata is a large, pyramidal conifer. This tree grows 35 to 45 feet tall and 25 to 35 feet wide with a dense branching habit. It has short, dark green, square-shaped needles that are 1/3-3/4 inches long. The cones on Black Hills spruce are small, 1.5-2 inches long with thin scales that hang down pendulously from branches. It has thin, flaky, gray bark. Black Hills spruce is a variety of white spruce native to the Black Hills region of South Dakota. Black Hills spruce is smaller, denser, and grows slower than White spruce.

Landscape Characteristics
Black Hills spruce is a great choice to blend into a windbreak with other tree species. It is slower growing, but will give you a dense, sturdy tree to withstand strong winds and storms better than faster growing evergreens.

It also makes a good specimen tree for landscapes because it is so dense and has a deeper green color than blue spruce.

Black Hills spruce is not tolerant of poor drainage. Plant it in a location where the soil is well drained, and where it will not sit in puddled water after heavy rainfall.

It needs full sun, and will not tolerate shade. It is fairly drought resistant once established, but will need to be watered during establishment and drought.

Landscapes, Windbreaks & Wildlife
Black Hills spruce has good wood for lumber and makes a great Christmas tree. It is also good for wildlife as it is browsed by mammals. It provides great nesting sites for birds and good winter cover for many animals. It can also be used as a source of pulp to make paper.

Black Hills spruce is a great selection for any landscape or windbreak. Be patient with this tree as it is slow growing, but patience will pay off when your tree transforms into a dense, sturdy, deep green evergreen.

For your landscape, Black Hills spruce may be a better choice than Colorado or Blue spruce because Black Hills spruce is less affected by needle cast and canker than blue spruce. Needle cast and canker diseases cause a great deal of damage and death to blue spruce trees in Nebraska.

So, the next time you look to plant a new windbreak, renovate an old one, or need a new specimen tree, look at Black Hills spruce.

Nicole Stoner
Nicole Stoner
Extension Educator - Horticulture

As a professional horticulturist, Nicole's focus areas include trees, shrubs, lawns, gardens, and insects.

Gage County Extension
1115 West Scott
Beatrice, NE
68310-3514
402-223-1384

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