Red spruce is a perennial, shade-tolerant, late successional, coniferous tree which under optimal conditions grows to 18–40 metres (59–131 ft) tall with a trunk diameter of about 60 centimetres (24 in), though exceptional specimens can reach 46 m (151 ft) tall and 100 cm (39 in) diameter. It has a narrow conical crown.
Red spruce grows at a slow to moderate rate, lives for 250 to 450+ years, and is very shade-tolerant when young. It is often found in pure stands or forests mixed with eastern white pine, balsam fir, or black spruce. Along with Fraser fir, red spruce is one of two primary tree types in the southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest, a distinct ecosystem found only in the highest elevations of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Its habitat is moist but well-drained sandy loam, often at high altitudes.
Red spruce is used for Christmas trees and is an important wood used in making paper pulp. It is also an excellent tonewood, and is used in many higher-end acoustic guitars and violins as well as musical soundboard. The sap can be used to make spruce gum. Leafy red spruce twigs are boiled as a part of making spruce beer. Also, it can be made into spruce pudding. It can also be used as construction lumber and is good for millwork and for crates.
Attempts are ongoing to reestablish red spruce habitats in our Appalachians. These ecosystems used to be habitats for snowshoe hares and it's predator, the lynx, which have been largely extirpated from much of the eastern mountains.