This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In the February number of the Monthly you say, " We are a little uncertain what is meant by white spruce. The white spruce of nurseries is the black spruce of botanists, and the white spruce of botanists is the black spruce of the cultivator," etc. I hope for once that you are somewhat mistaken, otherwise both you and I have wasted a great deal of time during the past twenty-five years.
More than twenty-five years ago a dispute arose at a horticultural exhibition in Chicago regarding three apparently distinct specimens of spruces, a branch and cone of each being on exhibition. Dr. John A. Kennicott, the pioneer of Western horticulturists, requested me to send these specimens to the Editor of the Gardeners' Monthly and abide by your decision. I did so. You decided that the long slender cone was the white spruce, A. alba; the other two, different forms of black spruce, A. nigra. At that time there were more native than foreign spruces in the Western nurseries, and the glacous black spruce was commonly supposed to be the white. But the mistake was soon corrected without the cones, for I called the attention of Western nurserymen to the odor of the white spruce, so that they could not be mistaken. Not only did I call their attention to it in horticultural meetings, but also when visiting nurseries, and I think there is no longer any confusion in the West. It is a surprise to me that this confusion should still exist in the East. I do not see why any nurseryman should introduce a black spruce into his nursery; still a few might be used to make up a variety, but otherwise it is worthless, owing to its uniform habit of shedding its foliage on the lower branches, even when quite young and before it leaves the nursery.
They can only be secured in the woods, for none have been grown from seeds in the nurseries. I should not say none, for we have grown a few to see if the two kinds of black spruce (the glacous and the red) would come true to their kinds. We have sent out some of the red, as we consider it a very fair tree, but we never sent out one of the glacous black. We have shipped white spruce seedlings East these twenty years; so I think I have said enough to convince you that when I say, white spruce, I mean Abies alba, Picea alba of England. I do not think the red variety of the black spruce can be found in our Western forests. I have never seen it except in the Eastern forests and in nurseries, and in every case where I have made inquiries of Western nurserymen they have come from the East. The glacous variety of black spruce - our Western kind - I have invariably found in low swampy ground, or where the ground had undoubtedly been swampy at the time when the trees were young; but the white spruce, although found in low damp ground, does not succeed in wet ground, but may be found high up in the hills.