The Sargent spruce (Picea brachytyla (Franch.) E. Pritz., 1900) is an arboreal species belonging to the Pinaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
P. brachytyla species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Abies brachytyla Franch .;
– Picea brachytyla f. latisquama Stapf;
– Picea brachytyla f. rhombisquamea (Stapf) Rehder;
– Picea brachytyla var. latisquamea Stapf.
Within this species, the following varieties are recognized:
– Picea brachytyla var. brachytyla;
– Picea brachytyla var. coplanata (Mast.) W.C.Cheng ex Rehd .;
– Picea brachytyla var. rhombisquamea Stapf.
The term picea is the Latin name of the wild pine in Virgil and Pliny.
The specific epithet brachytyla derives from the Greek words brachy = short and tylo = protruding lumps, and refers to the small pulvins on the shoots.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Picea brachytyla is an endemic conifer of China (Xizang, Yunnan, Gansu, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Hubei and Chongqing), India (Arunachal Pradesh) and Myanmar.
This plant is widespread in China: southern Gansu, southern Shaanxi, northwestern Hubei, western Sichuan, northwestern Yunnan and southeast Xizang; as well as in northern Burma, Assam Himal and India.
Its habitat is that of the humid mountains of southwestern China, especially at altitudes between 2,600 – 3,100 m above sea level where it forms a forest belt.
It can be found at altitudes between 1,300 – 3,800 m, where the climate is monsoonal, cold and humid, with annual rainfall of 1,000 to 2,500 mm of rain, wetter in the south on gray-brown mountain podzolic soils. This conifer commonly grows with Abies spp., Picea likiangensis, Tsuga spp. and Larix potaninii.
Picea brachytyla is an arboreal conifer that grows up to 40 m with a single monopodial trunk.
The bark soon becomes wrinkled, peeled and divided into plates, dark gray in color with the undersides exposed reddish-brown in color.
The branches of the first order are long and slender, developed horizontally, those of the second order slender and hanging. The crown is wide and conical, open in the old specimens. The shoots are slender, flexible, initially cream-white, then light brown or brown-orange, with a slightly grooved and rough surface, hairless or imperceptibly pubescent; the pulvini are short, arranged at 45 ° -60 ° with respect to the axis of the shoot.
The leaves are needle-like, curved, slightly flattened, almost comb-like, dark green on the upper side, with white bands on the lower side, 1-2 cm long; they have a truncated base and an acute or mucronate tip. The stomata are present only inferiorly, arranged on two narrow bands. The vegetative buds are ovoid-conical, 5-8 mm long, slightly resinous; they have triangular pearls, of a hazelnut color, persistent.
Male strobili are yellowish, axillary, 1-2 cm long.
The female cones are ovoid-oblong or cylindrical-oblong, erect, then hanging when ripe, 6-10 cm long and 3-4 cm broad, initially green or green-purple, then brown-dark when ripe, with short peduncle and apex thick headed. The macrosporophylls are obovate-angular, almost rhombic, thin and rigid, 16-20 mm long, with a wrinkled or striated, glabrous surface. The bracts are rudimentary, ligulate, completely hidden. The seeds, light brown in color, are ovoid-oblong and 3 mm long, with a winged part 10-14 mm long, brown-orange in color.
Picea brachytyla is a conifer that has a tolerance to cold, resisting up to -12.1 ° and -6.7 ° C; its range is between 1300 and 3800 m, preferring podzolic soils, with a cold and humid climate, with annual rainfall between 1000 and 2500 mm and monsoon characteristics in the southern part.
This plant is used in its natural state for local use as a food and source of materials.
It can be grown in moist, deep soils and tolerates poor peaty soils but is not very wind resistant in shallow soils.
From the pedological point of view, it prefers a pH between 4 and 6; moreover, it does not like shade and is intolerant to atmospheric pollution and resists exposure to the wind to a certain extent.
It is a very fast growing tree after a slow start. Trees can take 10 years to reach 3 meters, but can then grow at an average of 50 – 60 cm per year and can grow into large trees.
Propagation can occur by seed; stratification will likely improve germination, so it is recommended to sow fresh seeds in the fall, if possible, in an unheated seedbed.
Preserved seeds should be sown as early as possible throughout the year, in a semi-shaded position.
The seeds should not be allowed to dry out and should be stored in a cool place.
Once the young seedlings have germinated, which are barely manageable, they must be placed in individual pots and made to grow in a sheltered area for the first winter.
The transplant is then carried out the following year at the beginning of the summer.
It can also propagate via agamic via cuttings of semi-mature terminal shoots, 5 – 8 cm long, in August and in a shaded and frost-protected area. It forms roots in spring.
Cuttings of mature terminal shoots, 5 – 10 cm long, can also be prepared in September / early autumn in an unheated seedbed. These take an average of 12 months to root.
Finally, it is possible to prepare wood cuttings, from tender to semi-mature, at the beginning of summer in a seedbed; they root slowly but with a good percentage.
Remember that young trees must be transplanted in the open field when they are quite small, between 30 and 90 cm as larger plants root badly and with consequences in future development.
Customs and Traditions –
Picea brachytyla is a plant that is used both in the food field and for its wood.
Among the edible uses it should be remembered that young male strobili are used, raw or cooked and also used as aromas.
Tender and cooked female cones are also used. The central part, when roasted, is sweet and syrupy.
The inner bark is dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups, etc. or added to cereals during the preparation of bread; in general, however, it is a food used in times of scarcity of other crops.
The raw seed, on the other hand, is too small and complicated and therefore has little food value.
From the tips of the young shoots, a refreshing tea rich in vitamin C can be made.
Its wood is used in construction (interior flooring), in the construction of aircraft, machines, and in the paper industry. In China, after the intensive exploitation of the past, it is cultivated for reforestation; in Europe and North America it is often present in vegetable gardens and botanical gardens, due to its more ornamental characteristics than other species, and for its tolerance towards poor soils.
The wood is soft, not strong but also appreciated for its use in the pulp industry to produce paper.
From the ecological point of view, it is emphasized that this conifer, in the past, was subjected to massive deforestation (and in some parts of the area also in the present); the population is estimated to have undergone a reduction of more than 30% in the last 90 years, and therefore is classified as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.
Preparation Method –
Picea brachytyla is a plant that boasts uses for food and for its wood; they are not aware of medicinal uses.
For food, young male strobili are used, raw or cooked and also used as flavorings or tender and cooked female cones.
The inner bark is dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups, etc. or added to cereals when making bread.
Refreshing tea can be made from the tips of the young shoots.
Its wood, as mentioned, is used in construction.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.