Red Spruce Picea rubens SargentS3 (Watch list)    
Kingdom Plantae   >   Division Coniferophyta   >   Class Pinopsida   >   Order Pinales   >   Family Pinaceae   >   Genus Picea   


Red Spruce is a tree of northeastern Canada and New England, and occurs as far south as North Carolina and Tennessee, chiefly in the Appalachian uplands. It is the only native spruce species in Maryland, where it is known only in Garrett and Allegheny counties. Red spruce once covered thousands of acres in Western Maryland, but logging and subsequent wildfires at the turn of the 20th century drastically reduced its range. It is estimated that in the Central Appalachians as much as 90% of the original red spruce forest is now gone.

In recent years, The Nature Conservancy has planted more than 60,000 seedlings in western Maryland to help make up for the loss of an important component of the forest ecosystem (The Nature Conservancy, 2021).


Spruce and fir trees are sometimes difficult to tell apart. Spruce needles are sharply pointed, square, and easy to roll between your fingers. (Fir needles, in contrast, are softer, flat, and cannot be rolled between your fingers.) Spruce needles are attached to small, stalk-like woody projections, which remain after the needles are shed and give spruce-tree branches a rough feel. (Fir branches lack these projections and thus have smooth-feeling bark.) Needle length and color are unreliable for distinguishing spruce from fir because they can vary from tree to tree.

Another difference between spruce and fir is that spruce has pendant cones, whereas fir has upright ones. Red Spruce cones are about half as long as the cones of Balsam Fir.

Where to find:

At Finzel Swamp, in Garrett County.

There are 23 records in the project database.

View at Maryland Plant Atlas

Search Flora of North America

Search Mid-Atlantic Herbaria Consortium

Search Norton-Brown Herbarium

View taxon at iNaturalist

View taxon at NatureServe

Search Google Images

Search MBP Facebook posts (beta | requires login)

[View seasonality details]
Red Spruce at Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, West Virginia (6/25/2012). When this species was more common in Garrett Co., Swainson's Thrush nested in Maryland. Photo by Matt Tillett. (MBP list)

Red Spruce in Garrett Co., Maryland (10/3/2018). Photo by Josh Emm. (MBP list)

A Red Spruce in the Cranberry Wilderness, Pocahontas Co., West Virginia (7/7/2012). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Red Spruce in Garrett Co., Maryland (10/3/2018). Photo by Josh Emm. (MBP list)

Red Spruce in Garrett Co., Maryland (5/20/2017). (c) Bill Hubick, all rights reserved. Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Red Spruce in Garrett Co., Maryland (5/19/2017). Photo by Sue Muller. (MBP list)

Red Spruce in Garrett Co., Maryland (10/3/2018). Photo by Josh Emm. (MBP list)

The trunk of a Red Spruce in Garrett Co., Maryland (10/3/2018). Photo by Josh Emm. (MBP list)

View All Images

Use of images featured on Maryland Biodiversity Project is only permitted with express permission of the photographer.