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The spruce is native throughout Europe with the exception of the western and southern extremes. Spruce grows in lowlands and mountainous regions. Together with pine and birch, the spruce is among those trees which grow in the northern-most part of the hemisphere.
Spruce is one of the most important trees in Germany: Almost one third of Germanys forestland is covered by spruce. They grow comparatively quickly and their wood yield is high. As a result, and due to its good technical characteristics similar to fir, spruce wood is used in large quantities for the industrialised production of composite wood materials and for building and construction.
Spruce can grow to a height of 30m to 50m. Individual trees can grow as old as 600 years, but a generally felled at an age of 100 to 120 years.
Before the times of precise botanical classification, all coniferous trees were simply known as fir trees. The spruce is therefore often still known as red fir. The spruce and fir belong to two different botanical families. The wood of both trees is, however, so similar that their wood is very often simply labelled as fir/spruce. There are around 40 species of spruce which belong to their own family of the Pinaceae. In Europe the common spruce (Picea abies) and the Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) are most common.
The sapwood and heartwood are difficult to distinguish from one another. The wood is light, yellowish-white to reddish-white and darkens under exposure to light. The springwood and summerwood have very different colouring, the growth rings are clearly visible. Depending upon the angle of incision, either a clear striped pattern is visible (radial cut) or a wavy grain (cross cut).
Depending upon location and growth the width of the annual growth rings varies as does the density of the wood. Wide rings equate to lower density and therefore less strength. As a result sawn timber is sorted so that dense wood is reserved for use in high-load construction. Depending upon the requirements, only certain maximum annual ring widths are allowed.
Spruce is light and soft, but nevertheless has good strength and elasticity properties for its relatively light weight. It is not very susceptible to shrinkage and when dried remains stable. Its low natural durability can be compensated for by applying a protective coat of paint. It is less well suited to impregnation.
Spruce can be worked with all tools and machines. It is easy to saw, plane, drill and sand as well as to slice or peel, to split or shred. Connections can equally be made using nails, screws or glue. It is straightforward to paint, less easy to impregnate, especially the heartwood.
Spruce wood is available as round and sawn timber, as laminated timber and veneer.
Other names: Common spruce, red spruce, (red fir)
- Building and construction
- Interior finishing, furniture
- Manufacture of composite wood materials