Just like the firs and the pines that I discussed in the last two posts, spruce trees are evergreen conifers. For those who aren’t fluent in plant speak, that means their leaves (needles) stay green all year and the trees have cones. But just as we discovered last time that pines and firs differ from one another, so too the spruces.
Because we’re ultimately interested in the essential oils that we get from these trees, we have to be interested in their genus and species. All spruce are members of the genus Picea. (Just as all pines are in the genus Pinus, and all true firs are in the genus Abies, and poor Douglas fir isn’t really a fir at all, but a “false hemlock” in its own genus Pseudotsuga… but those were other blog posts. Use the links above to see the pine and fir posts)
You’ll find most spruce trees in the temperate and boreal (subarctic) regions. So you won’t find them much in the southern US or anywhere there aren’t some sort of distinct seasonal changes. (And no… fire, mudslide, and earthquake don’t count as seasons.) You can tell you’re looking at a spruce (vs any other type of evergreen conifer) if the needles have 4 sides and are attached to the branch via a small peg-like projection called a pulvinus (or pulvini if you’re talking about multiple needle attachments). Even if all the needles have dropped off the tree you can still tell it’s a spruce because the pulvini remain on the branch.
There are 5 spruces that are commonly used for essential oils: Black Spruce, Blue Spruce, White Spruce, Norway Spruce, and Hemlock Spruce. 4 of these are actual spruces but one’s an imposter. Can you tell which one from their common names? What if I give you their latin names:
If you said Hemlock Spruce, you’d be right. See… this is why I harp on knowing the latin names. Know why else? Because Hemlock Spruce is also called Eastern Hemlock and Hemlock Pine, so you can’t depend on the common name to tell you what kind of plant it really is.
Because Tsuga is the genus of hemlock, I’m not going to give you information on it. I’m only going to deal with the true spruces today, just like I promised last time.
Properties of this lovely oils are:
The major properties of this oil are:
This oil has 2 Latin names as you can see above. When this happens, it’s often because it was originally misclassified so it gets renamed to set the record straight. Unfortunately, not everyone gets the memo. However, sometimes it’s because people get confused and make mistakes so they use the wrong Latin name. Sometimes they accidentally label it with 2 Latin names.
After doing some research, I found a mention that the White Spruce is closely related to hemlocks but in my semi-limited search couldn’t find any information about one being reclassified to the other.
It should come as no shock that I’ve never owned or used this oil. I’m a big proponent of knowing at least something about an oil before using it for the first time. While there are many similarities amongst the conifers, there are differences as well. So If I know for certain that an oil is in a particular genus, I’m likely to at least try it. If, however, I can’t find a definitive answer as to which genus it actually belongs to, I move on to the next. With a large number of conifer oils on the market, there’s no reason not to. So… Next!
*This tree is also called Common Spruce and it used to have a different Latin name. It’s the tree formerly known as **Picea excelsa. Here’s what you can use it for:
Try blending any of the spruces with:
There are no warnings or precautions, but as with any essential oil avoid topical use of aged oils. Oxygenation or improper storage can lead to sensitization.