When I was considering what to write for this month’s article on Plant of the Month, I thought of how many bundles of spruce tips and spruce tip pots we had sold this year, and how every year these pots are more popular than the years previous. As I thought, all the questions I get about spruce tips every year came to mind as well. Where do they come from? Are they cut off of the tops of trees? Do they grow back? Will we have enough for future Christmas’s? and Are they harvested legally?
As I was doing more research, the first thing that popped up was a lot of recipes for spruce tips. There was spruce tip syrup, spruce tip beer, and many more. It reminded me of the old Grape Nuts cereal commercial with Euell Gibbons where he says, “Ever Eat a Tree?” Not exactly what I was looking for this article, but maybe some other time in the future.
The information I was looking for were Black Spruce, (Picea Mariana). These are small, upright trees with a straight trunk, a little taper, scruffy habit, and a narrow pointed crown with short, droopy branches and upturned tips. The needles are actually four-sided with a dark bluish green on the upper sides and a paler green below. Cones are produced at a very small size.
Spruce tips come from the north-woods of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada. They grow in the swamps or peat bogs, and require a paid permit for harvesting. This is heavily guarded under the watchful eye of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and are monitored so that they only cut a percentage of the tips in a certain area. Spruce tips are actually a “regenerative” crop, so once harvested they will grow back again between cuttings.
Spruce tips are the smallest of all the spruces, which might not sound like the nicest tree to decorate for the holidays indoors, but when you put five of them together in a pot, they are magnificent! Place the tallest one in the center and you have the look of a beautiful little Christmas tree. It is important to give them a fresh cut before placing them in the soil, and solidly push them about 4-5” deep. Make sure to water them in after planting to keep the soil moist until they freeze in. The spruce tips are sold in bundles of 10, which is enough to do 2 pots.
Hopefully this article helps clear up any misconceptions about spruce tips for everyone. Through continued vigilance by the DNR and strict regulations, we hope to have Spruce Tips for years to come.