This picture gives you an idea of what the upland black spruce forests looked liked. The black spruce never got very tall- about ten to thirty feet on average- even when they were a hundred or more years old. I don't know if their short height is a function of genetics or environment. The winters in Interior Alaska are notoriously long and cold. Even during the summer, if you dig a few inches down, you will find the ground frozen solid with permafrost. However, that doesn't stop the white spruce from growing to heights of eighty feet or more.

In the summer, the top few inches of ice melts and creates seasonal wetlands. Rubber boots are a must have. The people of Fairbanks refer to their rubber knee boots as "Alaskan tennis shoes."

Finches, chickadees, crossbills, juncos and a variety of other birds depend on the seeds of these conifers as a year- round food supply.

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Text and all photographs Copyright © 1999 Matthew Gerbrandt
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Revised -- October 17th, 2001