Aspen Poplar
(Populus tremuloides)

Up to 30 m in height, bark at first smooth, greenish-white, becoming rough and dark grey with age, terminal bud is sharp and pointed, all buds dark brown.

Leaves
Alternate, simple, broadly oval, sharp-pointed, fine-rounded teeth, 4.0 - 7.5 cm long, borne on long, slender stalks, dark green above, pale below; leaf-stems flattened causing fluttering in wind.

Flowers
Inconspicuous, small in dense catkins, pistillate and staminate flowers on different trees, formed before leaves develop in spring.

Fruit
A greenish capsule, containing many small hairy seeds.

Distribution
Widespread throughout Alberta, it is especially important in the northern-central part of the province where it is the dominant species in the "Boreal Mixedwood" forest, being eventually succeeded by white spruce.

Wood and Uses
Whitish to cream coloured wood which is short fibred, and relatively low in strength. It is used mainly for pulp products such as books, newsprint, and fine printing paper. Aspen is especially good for panel products such as oriented strandboard and waferboard. Lumber is light in weight and is used for furniture, boxes and crates, core stock in plywood, and wall panels.

 
             

Balsam Poplar
(Populus balsamifera)

Preferring wetter areas, these trees can grow up to 25 m high with stout spreading branches; bark is greenish grey at the top becoming more grey and deeply furrowed at the base; winter buds are large and curved with a sticky balsam-smelling gum.

Leaves
Alternate, simple, oval or heart-shaped, sharp-pointed, rounded teeth, 7.5 - 15.0 cm long, shiny dark green above and pale green beneath.

Flowers
Inconspicuous, small in dense catkins, pistillate and staminate flowers on different trees. Developed before the leaves expand in the spring.

Fruit
A dry, greenish-brown capsule, opening when mature. The seeds are very small, numerous and hairy.

Distribution
Common in forestland, abandoned farmland, burned-over areas, and river banks throughout Alberta

Wood and Uses
Wood is light, soft, low in strength, greyish white to light greyish brown in colour. Wood is used for pulp. Balsam poplar is also used in windbreak plantings.

             

White Birch
(Betula papyrifera)

6 to 20 m in height, with whitish or silvery grey bark in thin sheets; winter buds chestnut brown, bud scales slightly downy, no distinct terminal bud.

Leaves
Alternate, simple, in slender stalks, oval and tapering to a point, irregularly toothed, 2.5 - 19 cm long, dark green above, paler and slightly hairy beneath.

Flowers
Inconspicuous, small, in staminate and pistillate catkins.

Fruit
A small, broadly-winged nutlet.

Distribution
This species and several varieties are widespread and common along river banks and moist wooded areas through the central and northern part of the province.

Wood and Uses
Wood is moderately heavy, hard, strong, straight-grained and pale brown in colour. It is used for furniture, cabinets, woodenware and veneer. Birch logs also make excellent fire wood.

     

Tamarack Larch
(Larix laricina)

Grows slowly and may be only 15 - 18 m in height. On moist, well drained soils however, it can grow to heights of 25 m. The bark is rough and dark grey in colour and there are numerous small rounded reddish winter buds.

Leaves
Needle-like, 12 - 20 in feather-like clusters, soft and slender, 2 - 4 cm long, light green turning bright yellow in the autumn when they fall from the tree. In fact, larches are the only needle leaved tree to shed needles in the fall.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) quite small, yellow; seed cones (female) 1 - 2.5 cm . long, reddish when young, becoming brown and almost spherical when mature; seeds small and winged.

Distribution
Occurs throughout central and northern Alberta, usually in muskeg and boggy areas. Rarely found in pure stands, it typically occurs in mixture with black spruce. On better sites it can form a component of virtually any type of stand.

Wood and Uses
Wood is moderately hard and heavy, somewhat oily, decay resistant and yellowish brown to reddish brown in colour. It is used for lumber for rough construction, fence posts, poles, railway ties and pulpwood.


Alpine Larch
(Larix lyallii)

A small slow-growing tree from 9 to 12 m high; crown has a ragged appearance with irregularly spaced branches; leaves mostly confined to the outer branches; bark smooth, thin, greyish on young trees becoming reddish and scaly on older trees; buds often hidden by long white hair.

Leaves
Needle-like, 4 sided, soft and flexible, 2.5 - 4.0 cm long, bluish green, clusters of 30 - 40 on dwarf twigs, turning yellow in the autumn before falling from the tree.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) small, yellow; seed cones (female) nearly stalkless, 4 - 5 cm long, dark brown at maturity; cone scales are covered with whitish hairs and have 3-toothed bracts; seeds are small and winged.

Distribution
A timberline species on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southeastern Alberta.

Wood and Uses
Wood is heavy, hard and reddish brown in colour. Although it is suitable for both lumber and pulp, because of remote and inaccessible locations where it is generally found, alpine larch is of very little commercial importance, However, it is of importance in controlling run-off and erosion in high mountains.

               

Lodgepole Pine
(Pinus contorta var. latifolia)

A tall, slender pine with little taper and a straight trunk; can grow to 30 m or more in height. It has a thin bark, which is yellowish-brown and somewhat scaly.

Leaves
Needle-like, in bundles of two, produced in dense clusters towards the ends of the branches, 2.5 - 7.5 cm long, yellowish-green.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) borne in small terminal clusters; seed cones (female) conical-shaped woody and closed/sealed (serotinous), usually straight, pointed backwards towards the base of the branches, yellowish-brown often borne in clusters, 2.5 - 5.0 cm long, scales thickened and with a sharp spine at the tip of each scale; seeds winged.

Distribution
The most common and abundant tree in the Rocky Mountains and foothill regions. Occurring on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains where it frequently forms dense even-aged stands as the result of fire. In areas adjacent to jack pine, the two species integrate.

Wood and Uses
Wood is moderately light, soft to moderately hard and white to yellowish brown in colour. It is used for lumber and plywood as well as pulp. Lumber is used mainly in general construction; other uses include furniture, siding, flooring and panels. After pressure treatment with preservatives, lodgepole pine makes excellent railway ties, utility poles and mine timbers.

             

Jack Pine
(Pinus banksiana)

Ranging in height from a small scrubby tree up to about 25 m depending upon growing conditions; bark thin, reddish grey on young trees becoming darker grey, rough and scaly on old trunks.

Leaves
Needle-like, stiff, sharp-pointed, in bundles of two, frequently twisted, 2 - 4 cm long, yellowish-green.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) small in close clusters at the ends of young branches. Seed cones (female) borne in pairs, closed and sealed (serotinous) usually curved and pointing towards the end of the branches, smooth and exceedingly hard, often remaining unopened on the tree for several years, yellowish-grey when mature, 2.5 - 5.0 cm long, scales thickened, without prickles; seeds winged.

Distribution
Common on sand hills and thin soil in central and northeastern Alberta. It can be distinguished from lodgepole pine mainly by difference in form and shape of the needles and cone characteristics.

Wood and Uses
Wood is moderately heavy, soft and nearly white in colour. It is mainly used for pulp. Lumber is generally knotty and considerably less desirable than lodgepole pine, used primarily for boxes, crates and rough construction.

       

Limber Pine
(Pinus flexilis)

A small deformed, scrubby mountain tree, with short twisted limbs, usually 5 - 10 m in height. Bark is silvery-grey on young trees becoming very rough and almost black at maturity.

Leaves
Needle-like, thick, stiff, sharp-pointed, slightly curved, in bundles of 5, tightly clustered at the ends of twigs, 2.5 - 7.5 cm long, dark green.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) small produced in terminal clusters; seed cones large, cylindrical 7.5 - 20.0 cm long, yellowish-brown, with scales greatly thickened at the tip; seeds nut-like, practically wingless.

Distribution
A characteristic alpine tree on high mountain slopes where it is usually much stunted and frequently deformed by strong winds.

Wood and Uses
Wood is light, close-grained, moderately soft and lemon-yellowish in colour. This tree is protected (as of 2009) as an Endangered Species under the Alberta Wildlife Act.

           

Whitebark Pine
(Pinus albicaulis)

May reach 25 m on sheltered sites, but on windswept slopes, often flattened and shrubby, seldom exceeding 10 m. The trunk is massive and distorted with either smooth or scaly whitish bark; branches usually deformed, bunched in the crown or flat, close to the ground.

Leaves
Needle-like in bundles of 5, produced in dense clusters towards the ends of the branches, stiff and somewhat curved, 4.0 - 7.5 cm long, dark yellow-green.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) borne in small terminal clusters; seed cones (female) stout, tough, oval-shaped-pointed, woody, resinous permanently closed.

Distribution
A mountain species found scattered along the timber line of the Rocky Mountains.

Wood and Uses
Wood is light, close-grained, moderately soft and pale brownish in colour. This tree is protected (as of 2009) as an Endangered Species under the Alberta Wildlife Act.

               

Subalpine Fir
(Abies lasiocarpa)

Large tree, up to 25 m high; narrow crown and dense with drooping branches; bark smooth, ash-grey with large, horizontal resin blisters on young trees, becoming greyish-brown and scaly in older trees.

Leaves
Needle-like, 2.5 - 4.0 cm long, curved upwards on the branch, greyish-green to bluish-green, rounded or notched at the tip.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) small, bluish; seed cones (female) 6 - 10 cm long, dark purple, born at the top of the tree; cone scales fan shaped, slightly longer than broad with short spoon-shaped bracts.

Distribution
High altitudes, from west-central to southwestern Alberta. Often mixed with Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine and alpine larch.

Wood and Uses
Wood is light, soft, relatively low in strength and white in colour. It is used mainly for lumber for building construction and pulp; also suitable for making boxes and crates.

               

Balsam Fir
(Abies balsamea)

Usually 15 - 21 m in height. The crown is symmetrical with a narrow pyramidal shape and branches extending nearly to the ground. The bark is smooth, pale-grey with large resin blisters on young trees becoming roughened and reddish-brown on mature trees.

Leaves
Needle-like, distinctly flattened, rounded at the tip, arranged in two ranks, 2 - 3 cm long, dark green above, whitish beneath.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) small, yellowish-red; seed cones (female) erect, dark purple, 5 - 10 cm long, scales slightly elongated with short pointed bracts, becoming soft when mature.

Distribution
Central and northern Alberta, where it sometimes forms a scattered understorey in old growth stands.

Wood and Uses
Wood is light, soft, relatively low in strength, somewhat brittle, and white in colour. It is suitable for pulp and for making boxes and crates. Bark on young trees contains blisters filled with resin (Canada balsam) which can be used in cementing lenses and mounting specimens for observation with a microscope. Balsam fir also makes a good Christmas tree.

             

Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir
(Pseudotsuga menziesii)

A large tree up to 25 m high with a massive trunk and somewhat drooping branches; bark on young trees smooth and reddish brown becoming 10 - 15 cm thick and deeply fissured on old trees.

Leaves
Needle-like, somewhat flattened, 2 - 3 cm long, tapering at the base to a very short stalk, bright blue green above, pale beneath.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) bright red; seed cones (female) drooping, reddish brown, 5 - 9 cm long, the 3-forked bracts projecting beyond the broad-rounded, stiff scales; seeds broadly winged.

Distribution
Along the east slopes of the Rocky Mountains from Jasper Park to Waterton and widespread in the Porcupine Hills.

Wood and Uses
Moderately heavy, hard and strong wood with reddish brown colour. Primarily used for lumber for building construction. Other uses may include railway ties, boxes and crates. Douglas-fir also makes good Christmas trees.

             

Black Spruce
(Picea mariana)

With its characteristic "club top", black spruce is a small, slow growing tree, 9 - 15 m high, with the lower branches often draped with "old-man's beard" lichen. On well-drained mineral soils however, it can attain heights of 25 - 30 m. Typically, bark is thin, scaly and greyish with the inner bark, usually olive green.

Leaves
Needle-like, short, thick, 4 sided, 1 - 2 cm long, blue green.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) small, dark red; seed cones (female) semi-closed, purplish-green, 1 - 4 cm long at maturity, brown to purplish green and almost spherical, remaining on the tree for several years, scales stiff and rounded; seeds small, winged.

Distribution
Occurs throughout central and northern Alberta in wetter areas, usually in pure stands on muskeg, but also mixed with lodgepole pine or white spruce in well-drained mineral soils bordering muskeg sites.

Wood and Uses
Black spruce is one of the most harvested trees in Canada, however, it is generally not harvested in Alberta. The wood is moderately light, soft, relatively strong, resilient, straight grained and nearly white colour. Therefore, in some provinces, the wood is of great importance to pulp and lumber industry.

             

Engelmann Spruce
(Picea engelmannii)

Large tree, sometimes reaching up to 35 m; crown is narrow, symmetrical, lower branches usually drooping; bark thin, scaly, reddish-brown.

Leaves
Needle-like, 4 sided, stiff, 2.0 - 2.5 cm long; bluish-green.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) dark purple, 1.2 - 1.6 cm long; seed cones (female) brown to yellowish-brown at maturity, 2.5 - 7.5 cm long; cone scales broadest near the middle, irregularly toothed on outer edge with prominent bracts; seeds small with wedge-shaped wings.

Distribution
Higher altitudes in high valleys and on slopes of Rocky Mountains in southwestern Alberta. Often mixed with firs, larches and pines.

Wood and Uses
Wood is light, soft, resilient, straight-grained and white in colour. It can be used for pulp and lumber.

             

White Spruce
(Picea glauca)

A large tree reaching up to 45 m; rough scaly bark, brownish to silvery grey.

Leaves
Needle-like, 4 sided, stiff, sharp-pointed, 2.5 - 3.0 cm long, bright green.

Cones
Pollen cones (male) small, yellow; seed cones (female) usually at the ends of young twigs, drooping and turning brown at maturity, 4 - 5 cm long; scales thin, somewhat rounded with smooth margins; seeds with thin wings.

Distribution
Widespread throughout south-central and northern Alberta, succeeding Aspen poplar and pine in burned over areas.

Wood and Uses
Wood is light, soft, resilient, straight-grained and white in colour. In Alberta, it is the main species used for lumber, plywood and pulp.