The Forest Raised a Christmas Tree,
She grew up in the forest.
And much, much joy
I brought it to the kids.
(New Year's song for children)
Spruce - New Year's tree
Who does not know the words of this song! It seems that the little man has not yet managed to learn how to speak, but this song is associated with the holiday, with special attention (after all, gifts!) To him from his parents. It is not for nothing that some children even insist that they put more trees at home, and that there be a gift under each one.
So this is the first plant that we meet in our life, and as adults, we are looking forward to the New Year with great joy, associating it with the appearance of a Christmas tree at home, this neat, graceful young tree with branches, as it were, intended for festive decoration. In nature, an amazingly slender plant from a distance looks like the tip of a huge peak directed into the sky.
The genus of spruce (Pine family) includes 45 species common on the Eurasian and North American continents. On the territory of our country, most of the area is occupied by common spruce (European): it is found from the White Sea (north) to the northern border of the Black Earth zone (south). Approaching the border of Siberia, this species gives way to Siberian spruce, which occupies almost the entire territory of this huge region (only at more northern latitudes, it is replaced by larch). Finnish (northern and middle strip of the European part), Japanese (Far East, Kamchatka, Sakhalin) and eastern (North Caucasus) spruce are much less common. Experts distinguish these types from each other by very subtle characteristics.
A tall and slender spruce will grow throughout its life, unless its uppermost bud is damaged. Every year the plant gives a direct annual shoot, with which it rushes upward. Simultaneously with the growth of this shoot, the lateral ones grow: they go in different directions, as if in floors. By the number of these tiers-whorls, you can determine the age of the spruce: how old the tree is (plus or minus one year). Then 3-4 years must be added to this number, since in the first years of its life the trunk of a young spruce does not give lateral (ring-shaped) shoots.
It is possible to calculate the age by the annual circles on the cross section of the tree, but often they merge so much that it seems as if they are running into each other. In such a spruce, the root goes down steeply, but up to 10-15 years of age. Then it dies off, and the further vital activity of the tree is already carried out due to the lateral roots extending horizontally (like a star) in all directions. This feature of the root system allows the tree to absorb enough moisture and fish out many nutrients from the surface layers of the soil, but it also plays a negative role in the life of the tree in the future.
During strong winds, the superficial location of the roots is often let down by the spruce. Very strong-looking spruce trees, due to the wide dense crown, similar to a sail, unable to withstand powerful gusts and onslaught of the wind, tilt and overturn. Probably everyone has seen such a windbreak in the forest. In addition, due to this arrangement, the roots of these trees suffer from forest fires. That is why many giants do not live up to the mark assigned to them by nature of 300 years or more.
If the apical bud of a young Christmas tree is damaged or the upper stem on which it is located is removed, the growth of the central shoot stops, the branches of the tree then become very thick and bend strongly.
Spruce favorably treats illuminated places, although it is considered one of the most shade-tolerant species. More than once I had to observe how under the giant trees, whose branches are covered with gray lichens, there are small Christmas trees or completely dwarfs. Moreover, the latter may be 20-30 (even 50) years old. Other tree species would die under such conditions. But when the old spruce falls and the "window" opens, in a matter of years these "kids" will take their toll, gaining a height corresponding to their real age. However, such protection of adults will not hurt young Christmas trees, since their shoots are afraid of frost. Indeed, in the first or second year of life, these plants are very small - every year they grow by only 3-4 cm.Therefore, a ten-year-old Christmas tree is no more than 1-1.5 m tall.That is why the spruce grows in new places under the shelter of other plants (under the canopy of deciduous the forest of light is enough for her) - they shelter her from the piercing winds.
In addition, thanks to this shelter, young plants are saved from destructive direct sunlight. But, using this protection, the Christmas tree, gaining strength and increasing the green mass, will then show its aggressiveness and easily drown out its benefactors - those who helped her survive in difficult times.
An adult spruce is quite frost-hardy, which allowed it to move far to the Far North (directly to the Arctic Circle). But at the same time, the spruce is favorable to heat: the warmer the climate, the higher its forest. For example, in the conditions of the Moscow region, it grows under a 10-storey building - almost 30 m.
In this evergreen plant, the needles live for 5-7 years. Every year, every autumn, an adult spruce sheds about a seventh of its needles, and in spring its young shoots are decorated with new emerald-green needles. Young individuals begin to bloom when they reach 10-15 years of age (in a thin forest) or 25-30 years (in a thickened area). This process does not take long, and after a few months beautiful fir cones will appear. In some years (once every 4-5 years) there are so many of them that the branches of the tree may not withstand their weight and break.
Seeds are formed under the scales of the cones. When the seeds are not yet ripe, the scales are tightly compressed and even glued together with resin. Usually, by the end of winter - the beginning of spring (there is still snow), the seeds ripen and the scales bend back, releasing the seeds to "freedom". Each seed has a small rounded wing, thanks to which it can, gliding in the wind, fly quite far from the mother tree.
Spruce seeds remain viable for up to 8-10 years. There are many local inhabitants in the forest who want to feast on the seeds of a generous spruce. Often mushroom pickers come across such a picture in the forest: a cone (half broken) is clamped in a small gap in the hemp, and next to it there is a whole bunch of already "processed" cones. This is the activity of the great spotted woodpecker. If the outer halves of the scales of the cones are nibbled and turned into dust, it means that some small mice who have crawled out from under the snow have worked.
When some of the cones' scales are bent, and others are torn along, then these are already traces from the beaks of the crossbills. The bump and the squirrel prankster will not bypass; it will nibble it completely, leaving only a bare rod. Gnawing them on a tree, she scatters the scales around it, but, while feasting on the ground, folds them in a neat heap in a businesslike manner.
Spruce plays a huge role in the production life of people. High-quality paper and cardboard, cellophane and film, car tires and feed yeast, glycerin and medicines, artificial leather are made from its wood. In the wood of some alpine spruce species, the fibers are arranged in surprisingly uniform annual layers, therefore, they have resonant properties. This quality makes the wood of such spruce suitable for making musical instruments.
It is believed that the secret of the amazing sound of the violins of the most famous craftsmen (for example, the Italians Stradivari and Amati) lies in the skillful selection of tree species and the use of resonant spruce wood. For a long time, it was believed that spruces growing in the Carpathians, Tyrolean and Bavarian Alps have such a resonant wood. Many countries were forced to buy it there for the manufacture of violins and cellos. Now in Russia, similar spruces have been found, which are even exported to different countries (for example, to Germany). According to experts, about 5-7% of spruce trees in the taiga of the Volga-Kama region have such a resonant property.
A. Trunilov, biologist