Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Abies nigra

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abies nigra, picea nigra, mariana


The word picea comes from the ancient Latin name (pix, picis = pitch) of a pitchy pine, probably Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris L.). The word mariana means “of Maryland”, in the broad sense for North America, as this pecies in not native to Maryland.


Traditional name

English: Double Spruce, Black Spruce

German: amerikanische Schwarzfichte

Used parts

tinct. of gum


Plantae; Spermatophyta, Gymnospermae; Coniferopsida - Conifers; Coniferales; Pinaceae - Pine Family


Original proving

Proved and introduced by Leaman, Ohio Medical and Surgical Report 13; Allen: Encyclop. Mat. Med., Vol. I., 2; Clarke: A Dictionary of Practical Mat. Med., Vol. I., 2.

Description of the substance

Description Tree with open, irregular, conical crown of short, horizontal or slightly drooping branches; a prostrate shrub at timberline.
Height: 20-60' (6-18 m).
Diameter: 4-12" (0.1-0.3 m).
Needles: evergreen; 1/4-5/8" (6-15 cm) long. Stiff, 4-angled, sharp-pointed; spreading on all sides of twig from very short leafstalks; ashy blue-green with whitish lines.
Bark: gray or blackish, thin, scaly; brown beneath; cut surface of inner bark yellowish.
Twigs: brown; slender, hairy, rough, with peglike bases.
Cones: 5/8-1 1/4" (1.5-3 cm), long; egg-shaped or rounded; dull gray; curved downward on short stalk and remaining attached, often clustered near top of crown; cone-scales stiff and brittle, rounded and finely toothed; paired, brown, long-winged seeds.

Habitat Wet soils and bogs including peats, clays, and loams; in coniferous forests; often in pure stands.

Range Across N. North America near northern limit of trees from Alaska and British Columbia east to Labrador, south to N. New Jersey, and west to Minnesota; at 2000-5000' (610-1524 m).

Discussion Black Spruce is one of the most widely distributed conifers in North America. Uses are similar to those of White Spruce; however, the small size limits lumber production. The lowest branches take root by layering when deep snows bend them to the ground, forming a ring of small trees around a large one. Spruce gum and spruce beer were made from this species and Red Spruce.

General Wood Characteristics: The wood dries easily and is stable after drying, is moderately light in weight and easily worked, has moderate shrinkage, and is moderately strong, stiff, tough, and hard. It is not very resistant to bending or end-wise compression. It is straight, even grained, medium to fine textured, soft and produces a lustrous finish. It is without characteristic odor or taste. The wood is a pale yellowish white, and there is little difference between the heartwood and sapwood. It has exceptional resonance qualities, in the form of thin boards. It has moderately high shrinkage, but is easily air or kiln dried. It is easily worked, glues well, is average in paint holding ability, but rates low in nail holding capacity. It also rates low in decay resistance and is difficult to penetrate with reservatives.

Eastern Dwarf Mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum) most serious disease, resulting in reduced vigor, witches brooms, deformed trees, and death. Needle cast fungus also causes death in small areas. Susceptible to numerous needle rusts and fungi which bring defoliation and reduced vigor. These diseases usually remain at low levels but may become epidemic. Wind breakage arises from butt and heart rots, common in 70-100 year old upland stands and 100-130 year old stands on organic sites.
Spruce Budworm causes defoliation and if it occurs several years in a row will lead to death, though Black Spruce is less susceptible than White Spruce, or Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea). Trees most at risk are those growing with Balsam Fir and White Spruce.
Monochamus Wood Borers can kill trees that border logged areas with significant residual slash.
European, Yellowheaded, and Greenheaded Spruce Sawflies defoliate the trees.
Numerous other insects attack Black Spruce but only occasionally cause serious damage.
Susceptible to damage from flooding and disruptions in normal groundwater movements such as road construction or beaver dams.
Produces seed at an early age, produces good seed crops regularly, and has persistent, semi-serotinous cones that release seed slowly over a period of years.
Very well adapted to growing over bedrock because of its very shallow root system.
The highest quality stands are found in peat bogs, swamps, and on upland stands that are underlain by clay loams. The pH of soils where the black spruce is found range from very acidic to slightly basic.

Wildfires are frequent and extensive in Black Spruce forests and usually prevent the development of uneven-aged stands excepting in bogs and muskegs with longer fire-free intervals.
Easily killed by fire because it has thin bark and shallow roots, even by low-intensity surface fires.
Crowning is common because low-growing, lichen-draped branches are easily ignited by ground fires. Crown fires typically result in extensive mortality.
Immediately following fire, large quantities of seeds are released. Delayed seedfall and delayed germination are additional postfire adaptations which ensure that some seed is always available to germinate and establish during postfire years with favorable growing conditions. Although large amounts of seed do fall in the first postfire year, small amounts of seed will continue to be released for several years after fire.
Trees older than 30 years virtually always contain large amounts of seed. Following fire this large seed supply is released onto burned areas, allowing rapid seedling establishment. The seeds are usually not destroyed by fire because the cones are located in the upper part of the crown where they are least likely to burn. Even when trees are killed by fire, cones usually retain viable seed. Furthermore, the cones are small and occur in tightly compacted clusters, so that some seeds usually remain viable even after intense crown fires.
On upland clay or loam, Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), Tamarack (Larix laricina),White Spruce, (Picea glauca), Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
On organic sites, pure stands, but also mixed conifer swamps with Balsam Fir, Tamarack, White Pine (Pinus strobus), and White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis).
On mineral soils, Quaking Aspen, Paper Birch, White Spruce, Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana). Jack Pine is an especially common associate on dry, sandy and rocky sites.
In transitional areas between organic soil lowlands and mineral soil uplands, Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra), White Pine, Red Pine (Pinus resinosa), Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera), American Elm (Ulmus americana).
Shrubs: Moose Maple (Acer spicatum), Speckled Alder (Alnus incana), Bog Rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), Bog Birch (Betula pumila), Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta), Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula), Bog Laurel (Kalmia polifolia), Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum), Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus), Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
Sedges (Carex ssp.), Stemless Ladyslipper (Cypripedium acaule), Cotton Grass (Eriophorum spp.), Bog False Solomon's Seal (Smilacina trifolia), Blue Bead Lily (Clintonia borealis), Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera repens), Tall Northern Bog Orchid (Habenaria hyperborea), Blunt Leaf Orchid (Habenaria obtusata), Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea), Starflower (Trientalis borealis)
Ground Covers: Reindeer Mosses (Cladonia spp.), Dicranum Moss (Dicranum spp.), Bristly Clubmoss (Lycopodium annotinum), Schreber's Feather Moss (Pleurozium schreberi), Hair Cap Mosses (Polytrichum spp.), Sphagnum Mosses (Sphagnum angustifolium, Sphagnum fuscum, Sphagnum magellanicum). A conspicuous characteristic of black spruce stands is a nearly continuous ground cover of feather mosses, sphagnum mosses, and/or reindeer lichens.
Moose occasionally browse saplings, but white-tailed deer eat it only under starvation conditions. Provides good cover for moose.
A major food of snowshoe hares, especially in winter.
Red squirrels consume seed from harvested cones.
Mice, voles, shrews, and chipmunks eat seeds off the ground.
Spruce grouse feed entirely on spruce needles in winter.
Chickadees, nuthatches, crossbills, grosbeaks, and pine siskin extract seeds from open spruce cones and eat seeds off the ground.
It also provides good cover for spruce grouse. In the Lake States, spruce grouse are dependent upon black spruce stands for much of their habitat needs.
The ruby-crowned kinglet, magnolia warbler, Cape May warbler, and ovenbird commonly nest in Black Spruce.
Reproduction: Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by layering
Smallest seeds of North American spruces.
Seed production: can begin at 10 years but generally not in quantity until 30 years. Some seed is produced every year; bumper crops about every 4 years. Since seed crops seldom fail and the semi-serotinous cones release seeds over a period of several years, stands that are 40 years old or older nearly always have a continuous supply of seeds.
Dispersal: cones are semi-resinous, remaining partially closed and dispersing seed over several years. In Minnesota, cones release about 50% of their seeds within 1 year after ripening; 85% within 5 years. Rarely, some viable seed can be found in 20 year old cones.
Germination and establishment: will occur on numerous substrates if the seedbed remains moist but not saturated, and free of competing vegetation. Seedling establishment best on mineral soils, sphagnum mosses, and rotten wood. Seeds readily germinate on sphagnum mosses; however, seedlings are often overtopped by the fast-growing sphagnums. Feather mosses provide a poor seedbed except during wet years due to their tendency to dry out.
Growth: Seedlings are shade tolerant, but growth is fastest in full sunlight. Seedlings rarely grow more than 1" in their first growing season. Three-year-old seedlings commonly 3"-5". Roots of 1st-year seedlings may penetrate to 2" on upland soils, but when growing in mosses roots rarely reach depths of 1.5" after two growing seasons.
Layering occurs when lower branches become covered with moss or litter; particularly common in swamps and bogs. At the northern tree limit reproduces almost entirely through layering.
Flowers in late May/early June. Female conelets develop rapidly and contain mature seeds about 3 months after pollination.
Following fire, establishes best where severe burning exposes mineral soils on upland sites or moist peat on lowland sites. Unburned or partially burned sphagnum mosses are good seedbeds, but unburned or partially burned feather mosses are poor.
Seeds in quickly after fire on relatively dry uplands with jack or red pine. However, the pines also seed in aggressively and quickly overtop black spruce. Black spruce is very shade tolerant and can survive in this suppressed condition for more than 100 years and, in the absence of fire, will eventually replace the pines.
Propagation: By seed, germinative capacity of recently ripened seed is high, about 88%. Viability decreases with age.
Seeds retain their viability for several years when stored in sealed containers in a cool, dry environment.
Seeds require no stratification prior to sowing. They should be sown soon after snowmelt. On upland sites, exposing mineral soils before sowing is essential.
Readily propagated by root cuttings.
Seedlings vulnerable to snow blight, desiccation, and rapid temperature changes in the cold dry air.
Spruces often undergo a slow-growing establishment period following planting, after which growth is usually relatively rapid.
Subject to spring frost injury if they leaf out early. Low lying sites or "frost pockets" should be avoided when possible.
 They also claim it makes a poor ornamental tree because it retains it dead branches for so long.