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Three species of spruce trees are found in Nova Scotia: white, red and black. All three types grow around Flandrum Hill.  Tolerant of shade, they’re often found in stands together along with balsam fir, yellow birch and sugar maple.

All are shallow-rooted and susceptible to being toppled by strong winds. The black spruce can be especially top heavy and is best left growing in a stand in order to remain windfirm.

Ripe cones of all three are closed and leathery during wet weather, and open and hard when it’s dry.

White spruce often has a whitish cast to its green or bluish-green needles. Bark is light greyish-brown. Its cones are the longest of the three types, usually up to 2 inches in length.  Green at first, they turn brown in autumn and fall off the tree in winter.

Red spruce growth is confined to Eastern Canada.  It is Nova Scotia’s provincial tree. Needles are yellowish-green. Bark is light reddish-brown. Red spruce can interbreed with black spruce, sometimes making identification between the two difficult.  Cones fall off the tree either in winter or the following spring.

Black spruce have blunt tipped needles that are the shortest of the three (1/2″ long).  These trees are often stunted in growth when situated on boggy soil.  Bark can be greyish to reddish brown.   Their cones are egg-shaped and can stay on the tree for years.  They can be extremely hard and difficult to open.  Individual seeds are black.

The ability to grow new trees by rooting lower branches in wet moss is unique to black spruce. 

Some diseases and pests have a tendency to prefer one type of spruce over another.  It’s best to keep a diversity of trees on your lot, should one species of tree be affected. 

References:  Native Trees of Canada by R.C. Hosie and Trees of Nova Scotia by Gary L. Saunders

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Some of my spruce trees are looking bad.  I’m not sure what’s causing the reddening of the buds or the needle damage.  Are these trees being damaged by insects or a fungus?  This would be an ideal time to be able to summon Doctor Bombay for assistance in finding a cure.  As I recall, he was able to cure a weeping willow on one episode of Bewitched and was quite an expert in his use of unconventional methods.

Calling Doctor Bombay!  Calling Doctor Bombay!  Emergency!  Come right away!

One of the spruces is especially affected.  I first noticed a few reddened buds a couple of years ago, but it’s looking worse and worse.  A few other spruces in the yard are affected as well.  Some of these trees also have twigs that are bared of their needles.  Once a tree is damaged in some way, it becomes vulnerable to a host of other diseases.

Could the culprit be the dreaded spruce budworm?  It attacks both firs and spruces throughout North America, damaging whole stands in the process.  First documented in Quebec in 1704, the spruce budworm follows a 35 year cycle.  It last peaked in Nova Scotia in 1976, which means that we’re due for an infestation. 

Forests are usually treated for spruce budworm with spraying.  However, if it is indeed worms that are attacking these buds, I’m wondering if there might be a more natural solution to the problem.  There must be birds that would find these worms tasty.  Also, the grey moths that are the adult stage of the pest are active in the evenings.  Could bats be helpful in controlling them? 

During the winter, the larvae hibernate in crevices on the twigs, waiting to awaken to a scrumptious breakfast of fresh new green buds in the spring.  I’ll be waiting for them.

Reference:  Natural Resources Canada 

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spruce tree tops

White spruce branches are heavy with cones wherever I look:  in the yard, near Rainbow Haven Beach and along the Salt Marsh Trail.  It looks like a bumper crop year.  The squirrels and birds must be happy.

spruce cones2

If a plant is under stress from the weather one year, it will produce more seed the following year.  The year after Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia was also a bumper crop year.  Wind certainly helps with pollination.

Although it’s not yet understood how they do it, it’s believed that some bird species, such as finches, can locate a bumper crop of cones from half a continent away.  Their ability to do this might have something to do with their highly developed sensory and nervous systems.

balsam fir cones

Balsam fir cones can also be found on the ground in the yard.  There are more of these trees than any other here.  The majority of them grew up shortly after Hurricane Juan took down the larger trees in 2003, allowing more light and rain to reach the seeds on the bottom of the forest floor.

spruce cones on trail

While walking along the Salt Marsh Trail, it’s difficult to not take it personally when squirrels are throwing cones down from the top of trees.  In their quest for the perfect cone, flawed ones fall to the ground.  Perhaps this bumper crop is an indicator that I won’t have to put out as many sunflower seeds this winter.  There seem to be enough cones out there to feed an army of Red Squirrels.

red squirrel

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sprucecones

Purple haze all in my brain
Lately things just don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky
~ Jimi Hendrix

purple starfishWith less than three weeks left to go before Midsummer’s Eve, spring is in full swing.  The days aren’t as warm as we’d like yet, but summer is on the doorstep.  The color purple caught my eye today on spruce cones along the Salt Marsh Trail.  It won’t be long before their light purple color will darken and eventually change to brown.  Right now, their hue contrasts nicely with the fresh light green of the new growth.  

Starfish can often be spotted from the first couple of bridges along the trail.  Today I was able to catch a glimpse of one with its arms stretched out evenly  in the water.  Live, local starfish have a purple cast that’s barely discernible on sun-dried specimens found along the seashore. 

violets

Following the lead of wild ones in the grass, the deeper purple tame violets have emerged in the flower bed.  Their brilliant color will fade with the summer’s heat. 

lupinsPurple lupins are a common sight along the side of the road and in gardens in Nova Scotia.   Though they’re also found in shades of pink and white, the purple ones seem to dominate.

Purple is a color associated with spirituality, mystery and royalty.  During different periods in history, its use in clothing has been restricted to either nobility or an elite class of individuals.  It can be created by a variety of methods using lichens, the roots of madder plants or murex shells, with the latter producing the most brilliant hue.  In painting, it was a favorite of Vincent Van Gogh who often juxtaposed it with yellow for maximum effect.

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