White and Red Spruce in Winter

Red & White spruce in winter photo by Anne Krantz

The white and red spruce trees that grow in the northern boreal forests of the New Hampshire are dramatic in winter. These symmetrical cone shaped trees when covered with snow brighten up the dark forests and add winter beauty to the home landscape.  Their natural distribution extends from the northern Canada tree line south to the White Mountains. Today they are planted successfully throughout New Hampshire as ornamentals, often as dense windbreaks. Since they withstand wind, heat, cold, drought and crowding, the conditions found on mountain tops and rocky crevices, they grow in climates where no other trees survive. At the top of high mountain ski trails, snow and ice turn them into beautiful sculptures with thick blankets of snow, mounded like icing around the barely visible trees.

Distinguishing spruce trees from balsam firs that also grow on mountain tops is easy if you can see the cones; spruce cones hang down and the fir cones flip up. Spruces have square four-sided, stiff needles that grow all around the fat twigs that are distinctly sharp and prickly. Firs have flat, two-sided needles that feel softer. But when buried in snow this isn’t much help.

Distinguishing the red spruce from white spruce is even trickier and requires expertise. As shown in the photo white spruce cones are several inches long and yellowish brown, while red spruce cones are definitely reddish and smaller. Since needles, cones and bark are not easy to see in winter, simply enjoy the winter sculptures.

About the Author

Anne Krantz admits, “I literally stumbled into the fascinating the Natural Resources Stewards Program and followed that with the comprehensive Master Gardener training.”  Participating in a special training in 2009, Anne became part of the first team of volunteers to answer homeowner questions at the Education Center, an activity she continues to love.

“Because of these excellent education opportunities I now serve on my conservation commission, the NH Pesticide Board and the Rivers Management Advisory Council," she says. "I have also enjoyed UNH Extension's Big Tree program; I just found a flowering native chestnut tree this morning!”


Anne Krantz
NH Big Tree Program Volunteer & Natural Resources Steward

Mary Tebo Davis
Urban and Community Natural Resources Field Specialist
Full Extension Field Spec
Phone: (603) 641-6060
Office: Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824