Text Box: Nov. 15, 2012



Engelmann Spruce

The headline read, “Capitol Sprucing Up.” It was about the Engelmann Spruce (175 feet tall) from the Meeker area being sent to the US capitol for a Christmas Tree. And I thought, “That’s nice!” And then I wondered about the term “sprucing up.” So to the dictionary.  Fourteenth century “spruce” is a variant of Prussia and referred to things brought from there, including fine leather. Noblemen wore jerkins made of “spruce leather.” The words “sprucing-up” was used in a 1676 drama, and so the word became a verb. This usually applied to people and their clothes, but the meaning has now been extended to the capitol of our nation.

          But when I looked at the photo in the Grand Junction Sentinel, I thought of our trees on Grand Mesa, along with their companion trees, the Subalpine Fir. The Subalpine Fir has gray-silvery bark while Engelmann Spruce’s bark is brown and scaly. And the height of 175-feet brought to mind just the opposite condition: the twisted, dwarf Engelmann Spruce at timberline that I studied on Cottonwood Pass. The cold, wind, intense sunlight, and shallow soils result in these dwarf trees, labeled, as “krummholz,” a German word for “crooked woods.” Those trees that manage to grow taller (10 to 15-feet) have limbs only on the side away from the constant winds: “banner trees.” Of course, many small creatures and birds shelter within these trees as well as many delicate alpine plants. A precious memory. Picea engelmannii

Photo by Al Schneider, www.swcoloradowildflowers.com