Spruces have certain characteristics that are the same. You'll find that they have sharp needles with four sides on them. They also have a strong pungent smell to the needles when you crush them in your fingers. Needles of the black spruce are blue-green, short, and pointed. They only measure 1/2 inch. The twigs are rough with bases that stick out for each individual needle. This is different from the firs that have smooth twig surfaces. The cones of spruces are also thin like paper. For the black spruce, they are small and oval, measuring only 1 inch in length. The cones for the black spruce are light brown when they're ripe but the 1/8-inch long seeds are dark brown with wings on them. Sometimes the cones stay on the tree for a long time.
Black spruce grow in swampy areas with poorly drained soil and sometimes on well-drained slopes in northern Wisconsin. The grow along with the tamarack, balsam fir, and white spruce. The wood is yellow-white in color and soft. The wood is used mostly for paper pulp. Chickadees will frequent spruce branches to find food, as a perch, or to nest and raise young. You may also see red squirrels, hawks, owls, gray jays, wrens warblers and flycatchers doing the same.