What is the Difference Between Spruce and Pine

The main difference between spruce and pine is that the needles of the spruce are short whereas the needles of the pine are long. Furthermore, the twig of a spruce bears a single needle while a twig of a pine bears two, three or five needles. Moreover, the needles of the spruce are sharply pointed and square. Therefore, they easily roll between fingers.  

Spruce and pine are two types of conifers, mainly evergreen trees. Their leaves are called needles whose features help in distinguishing between the genera along with the characteristics of cones and the bark

Key Areas Covered 

1. Spruce
     – Definition, Characteristics, Importance
2. Pine
     – Definition, Characteristics, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Spruce and Pine
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Spruce and Pine
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Bark, Cones, Conifers, Needles, Pine, Spruce, Timber

Difference Between Spruce and Pine - Comparison Summary

Spruce – Definition, Characteristics, Importance 

Spruce is a type of evergreen conifers of the genus Picea. It contains sharply pointed needles with four sides. Therefore, these needles can easily roll between fingers. On the other hand, these are short, around 1 inch long. In addition, spruce needles easily break apart when bent. The most significant feature with spruce needles is that a single needle attaches to the stem through individual twigs. This twig is a small, peg-like wooden structure. Though the needles are shed off, these twigs remain attached to the stem, giving a rough feeling to the branches.  

What is the Difference Between Spruce and Pine

Figure 1: The Spruce Needles

The spruce produces soft timber which has creamy-white lumber. Due to its tonal quality, the spruce timber is good for the production of musical instruments including guitars and violins. In addition, spruce is used to produce boards, papers, and fences. Apart from that, the fresh shoots of spruce are a good source of vitamin C. In the past, the beer made up of shoots of spruce was consumed regularly during the long voyages in order to prevent scurvy.  

Pine – Definition, Characteristics, Importance 

Pine is another type of evergreen conifers of the genus Pinus. Most pine needles are long. Moreover, these needles occur in bundles of two (red pine), three (yellow pine), and five (white pine) needles per twig. These needles are soft and flexible. The other characteristic feature of pine is the pine cone. It is a woody structure, which is rigid. On the other hand, the bark of the pine trees is very distinctive, jagged, and flaky. It is smooth when the tree is young and becomes reddish-brown and flaky after maturation. 

Main Difference - Spruce and Pine

Figure 2: The Pine Needles

The pine timber is less strong than timber of spruce. But, it contains a higher amount of resins, which ensure the durability of the products. Beautifully-colored pine is good for the manufacture of furniture, cabinets, window frames, and shelves. Its color varies from the dark red to amber color with yellowish-white lines. On the other hand, pine seeds/pine nuts are a part of the human diet. Furthermore, young pine needles are good for the preparation of tea.  

Similarities Between Spruce and Pine 

  • Spruce and pine are two genera of confers. Both belong to the family Pinaceae. 
  • Also, they both mainly live in the temperate and boreal parts of the Northern hemisphere.  
  • Furthermore, both are evergreen trees with fine leaves called needles. They show a pyramidal shape.  
  • Moreover, both their cones consist of scales attached to a stalk. In between the scales, their seeds occur. The seeds of conifers do not produce a fruit. 
  • In addition, both spruce cones and pinecones hang down in the tree branches. On the other hand, these cones fall off from the tree as a whole and do not break apart while on the tree. That means; both spruce cones and pine cones can be found on the ground as a whole. 
  • Also, both produce a pyramid-shaped crown at the top of the tree. Their bark becomes scaly with age. 
  • Besides, one of their main usages is decorative purposes.  
  • Both of the trees have soft timber, so they are grown for timber and pulp. 

Difference Between Spruce and Pine 


Spruce is a widespread coniferous tree, which has a distinctive conical shape and hanging cones while pine is an evergreen coniferous tree which has clusters of long needle-shaped leaves. Thus, this describes the distinguishable difference between spruce and pine.


The genus of spruce is Picea while the genus of pine is Pinus

Number of Species 

There are around 35 species of spruce while around 175 pine species live on the earth. 


The needles of spruce are short and a twig contains a single needle while the needles of pine are comparatively long and a twig contains either two, three or five needles. This is a major difference between spruce and pine.

Needles Texture 

Also, the needles of spruce are easily breakable while the needles of pine are soft and flexible.  

Needle Drop 

Moreover, the shedding needles of spruce make a considerable color change while the shedding needles of the pine make the most brilliant color change. 


Another difference between spruce and pine is their cones. The scales of spruce cones are thin and flexible while the scales of pinecones are woody and rigid.


Spruce has numerous, upturned branches, which form a pyramid-shaped crown while pine has a smaller number of branches, which are spirally arranged. And also, the pyramid-shaped crown of pine is less symmetrical when compared to that of spruce. Hence, this also a visible difference between spruce and pine.


Bark is another significant difference between spruce and pine. The bark of spruce is rough and becomes furrowed and scaly with age while the bark of pine is smooth on young trees but develops a flaky, reddish-brown color with age. 


Spruces are grown for timber, pulp, and Christmas trees while pines are grown for soft timber, which is widely used for furniture and pulp, or for tar and turpentine. 


Spruce is a type of conifer trees whose twig equips with a single needle. On the other hand, pine, another type of conifers, has a cluster of needles attached to the twig. Both spruce and pine are evergreen trees whose needles are used in decorations. They produce soft timber as well. The cones of the spruce are soft while the cones of the pine are woody. Also, the bark of the spruce is scaly while the bark of the pine is flaky. Therefore, the main difference between spruce and pine is the needle arrangement and the features of cones and bark.


1. Wilson, Mary. “Pine, Spruce or Fir: Getting to Know Michigan Evergreen Trees.” MSU Extension, Michigan State University, 3 Oct. 2018, Available Here

Image Courtesy:

1. “Spruce Tree Branch” By Petr Kratochvil (CC0) via PublicDomainPictures.net
2. “pine-cones-pine-tree-pine-tree-1147855” By imaginaryhuman (CC0) via Pixabay

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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