Picea rubens – Red Spruce

Red Spruce in the Ottawa Greenbelt (O. Clarkin)

Usually associated with the Maritimes, Red Spruce grows in scattered locations in eastern Ontario, but populations can be locally abundant.  They are sometimes confused with White Spruce (Picea glauca), but careful scrutiny rewards the observer with the correct ID.

Red Spruce have hairy young twigs (use magnifier), smaller cones, wider-growth form, and yellowish-green foliage (often shiny).  The foliage is arranged more densely and forward-facing on twigs, the tree is more shade-tolerant and more likely to grow in lower pH conditions.  It is found in close association with Red Maple (Acer rubrum). White Spruce have hairless young twigs, longer cones, narrower growth form, and blueish-green foliage.  The foliage is arranged less densely and more perpendicular to twig direction, the tree is less shade-tolerant and more likely to grow in higher pH conditions.
Hairy twig characteristic of Red Spruce (O. Clarkin).
Black Spruce, Red Spruce, White Spruce.
This photo shows Black Spruce, Red Spruce, and White Spruce.
For a good description of the differences between these trees, go to this blog entry of the Native Tree Society.

Red Spruce has been found on the eastern side of Ottawa out to Vankleek Hill, the Alfred Bog, around Plantagenet, and Hawkesbury, and in Gatineau Park, Quebec.  Two isolated populations have been located west of Ottawa, one in Algonquin Park and the other at Rose Hill Nature Reserve.  There are probably more to be discovered!  The best site to view many 100+ year old Red Spruce is in the NCC Greenbelt at Anderson and Leitrim Road.  Other good public sites  include:  Gatineau Park along the Wolf Trail particularly on the northern side of the loop and Lavigne Natural Park near Bourget.

Red Spruce populations in Eastern Ontario and West Quebec as of July 2020 (from iNaturalist).
Selected photographs with location coordinates in iNaturalist:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/6007553 – Multiple photos taken in Lavigne Natural Park showing branching habit and glistening needles.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9176821 – Foliage and immature cones in the south eastern edge of the Greenbelt.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9060693 – Large mature trees – shape and silhouette.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/6003586 – Reddish-yellow twig with hairs.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/2506911 – Mature bark of a tree in the south eastern edge of the Greenbelt.
Mostly Ottawa area Red Spruce entries in iNaturalist, click here.
Glistening yellow-green foliage at Rose Hill Nature Reserve.