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Sitka spruce tres - licensed under Creative Commons Wikicommons/MPF

Named after the city of Sitka in southern Alaska, this conifer is one of the most important tree species in the British forest industries today. Its timber is used for everything from paper to musical instruments to boat-building, depending on the maturity of the tree. Because of this versatility, sitka accounts for about 50% of commercial planting in the UK.

Sitka is fast-growing, even in poor soils and on exposed ground, making it perfect for the Scottish climate. In fact, it's so fast-growing - young trees can grow as much as 1.5m in a year - it can be tricky to estimate a sitka tree's age just by looking at it.

Botanical drawing of sitka spruce tree, bark and branch

Facts and stats

  • Lifespan: 600 years
  • Height: Grows up to 55 metres developing drooping branches, but can reach 100 metres. It is the fifth largest conifer in the world.
  • Leaves: Flattened solitary needles on pegs have a slatey-blue tint and sharp points.
  • Seeds: Light brown cones have thin papery scales with crinkled edges.
  • Bark: Greyish-brown which, when mature, flakes off in round scales.
  • Native to: West coast of North America, from Alaska to California.
  • Uses: This is a versatile timber, with smaller trees being of particular value for paper making due to their fibre length and white colour. It is also used in the manufacture of different types of board. Sawlog material is used for pallets and packing cases with the better grades used for building.
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