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White Spruce vs Black Spruce

These two species are often confused as their ranges overlap and both have bluish foliage. They can be relatively easily distinguished by cones, as well as by characteristics of twigs and needles, and radical differences in growth habit and habitat, with white spruce occupying richer habitats, i.e. with deep, well-drained soils, and black spruce found on poorly drained and/or thin soils.

White Spruce (Picea glauca)

Black Spruce (Picea mariana)

A conifer native to North America, with a northerly distribution; often found on richer sites than other spruces.
A conifer with a northerly distribution, native to North America; found on acidic soils, often on poorly-drained sites, often with stunted growth.
Twigs hairless or nearly so.
Photo © Ben Armstrong, CC BY 4.0.
Twigs are hairy.
Photo © Derek, CC BY 4.0.
Trees have a lush, full look, often retaining foliage on lower branches, and a pyramidal shape well into maturity. Broader spread, especially towards the base.
Photo © Mary Krieger, CC BY 4.0.
Mature trees have a sparse, top-heavy growth habit, losing most lower branches and having very little foliage except at the top. Narrower spread, and live branches under the crown are often narrower than the crown.
Photo © Charlie Hohn, CC BY 4.0.
Larger cones. Cones dropped after they mature; no cones retained by the time new cones are growing.
Photo © Shawn Treelife, Public Domain.
Smaller cones. Retains some cones for many years; old cones often present while tree is growing new cones.
Photo © Rob Foster, CC BY 4.0.