We saw this large Sitka spruce, Picea sitchensis, tree at Fort Clatsop, Oregon. This is where the Lewis and Clark expedition spent a long, wet winter in 1806. Lewis noted how this tree was commonly 27 feet in girth, with some trees reaching 36 feet around. This tree’s height averages 125-180 feet, and may reach over 250 feet. Sitka spruce can live up to 800 years.
Indigenous people used parts of spruce trees in several ways. Roots and cedar bark were woven into baskets and hats. The pitch was used as a varnish, to waterproof canoes, and chewed like gum. Various parts were used to treat diarrhea, constipation, and back aches. Sitka spruce was thought to possess “mystical powers and provided protection against evil thoughts.”
The tree’s fine-grained wood is both strong and lightweight. It is used in turbine blades, aircraft, sailboats, racing sculls, and oars. its unique qualities also make it a favorite in making musical instruments, including guitars, harps, violins, pianos, and flutes created by Native Americans.