South Dakota state tree - Picea glauca, or white spruce; photo courtesy of Division of Resource Conservation & Forestry, South Dakota Dept. of Agriculture (all rights reserved; used by permission). All State Trees
Official State Tree of South Dakota
South Dakota designated Black Hills white spruce as the official state tree in 1947. The beautiful short-needled white spruce tree is one of the dominant trees of the vast boreal forest that reaches from the northeastern United States across Canada to Alaska. All State Trees
Adopting the Black Hills spruce as the official state tree of South Dakota was not without controversy. First introduced by the Joint Committee on Horticulture, the idea met with opposition from some that felt the cottonwood (the state tree of Nebraska) would be a more suitable choice as the state tree symbol (because of its widespread distribution throughout South Dakota).
Others felt the juniper (or cedar) would be the best tree to represent the state. Motions for the cottonwood and juniper were both voted down and finally a joint committee was named to weigh and consider the options for a state tree. The committee nominated the Black Hills spruce for South Dakota's tree symbol, and their report was accepted by both the House and Senate.
Botanical Name for Black Hills Spruce
The Black Hills spruce, current botanical name Picea glauca (Moench), was recognized by botanists as a distinct variety of white spruce between 1933 and the early 1970's (variety densata, describing the tendency of these cone-shaped trees to grow in dense stands). Older text books still refer to the Black Hills spruce by that botanical name (Picea glauca densata), but today it is considered a geographical variety rather than a botanical variety of white spruce.