The black spruce is one of the defining species of the boreal forest. It is the tallest tree around and the raven loves to perch on top to spy out the surrounding territory. The gray jay also makes its home in the spruce. Scientists call the gray jay Perisoreus canadensis. Now there is a mouthful that tells me absolutely nothing unless I research it. No thanks, I prefer gray jay, which at least tells me what color the bird is. Its nickname is even better, camp robber. Now that is my kind of name. Apparently the little rascal steals from you if you leave your food out in camp. Why can’t scientists be practical like that?
The black spruce is home to squirrels, too. I saw a common squirrel in a spruce just last week. Anyway, he saw me and set up an angry chattering that made me stop to investigate. Maybe the squirrel had a nest, but she certainly wasn’t happy that I had entered her wood.
What I like best about the spruce is its fragrance. I’ve mentioned it in several posts, but I never do find the words to do it justice. The spruce lends a sweetness and pungency to the air that is absolutely intoxicating. Winter time takes a heavy toll on the spruce and by spring they look ragged and colorless, but now that the temperatures have risen, new growth is restoring them to their summer beauty.
Alaskan natives use the spruce for firewood in winter and also for medicinal purposes. It is said that the new shoots make a good tea with antiseptic properties and that its gum is often used for chest complaints. Around here, Athabaskan lore recommends the pitch as a salve for sores and cuts.