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Royal Scottish Forestry Society

 

 

The Sitka or Menzies Spruce ( Picea Sitchensis)

 

This fine species of the Spruce genus was first introduced into Britain by David Douglas, in 1831, who sent it home from America and named it in honour of one of his predecessors as a pioneer in the American woods, Archibald Menzies.

 

The more common name, that it is known by, was acquired from Sitka Island where the tree is found in great abundance.

 

It grows well and is the fifth largest conifer in the world and the third tallest and can reach 300 feet in height as well as individuals living up to 700 years in their native habitat on the west coast of America from northern California to Kodiak Island, Alaska.

 

It has a greyish flaky bark and dark green stiff needles on branches that flow down from the top of the tree.

 

Originally after its introduction to Britain it was grown as an exotic specimen in gardens and parks, but when its exceptional growth rates became apparent it began to be used in commercial forestry and because of its adaptability to a wide range of soils and climate, allied to its high growth rate, it has become the most planted tree in Scottish forestry.

 

The white, often knot free, timber obtained from the tree has been used in a wide variety of situations ranging from wood pulp for paper making through to structural timber for airplanes; most famously the Wright brothers “Flyer” and the “Mosquito” fighter/bomber manufactured during World War Two where sitka timber was used instead of aluminium.

 

Nowadays its uses are more mundane, sawn timber for building construction and the DIY market, wood pulp because of the long white fibres, pallet construction, packaging and posts when treated.

 

Simon MacGillivray

 

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Sitka 1

Sitka 2