Block of the Week: Spruce Wood
Pining for the Fjords
It's nearly Christmas! The season to be merry. The season to eat your bodyweight in festive food. The season to get confused why all of the chests in your storage room have turned into presents. The season of our block of the week: spruce wood.
Spruce, which was added to the game in Beta 1.2 in January 2011, is one of the six species of tree found in Minecraft (the others being oak, birch, jungle, acacia and dark oak). It grows in the game's colder biomes - mainly taiga but occasionally extreme hills, amplified taiga, cold taiga and mega taiga.
The spruce texture looks a bit like a darker version of oak, but most of the time you'll be able to tell the difference because spruce trees look very different to oak trees. They usually have layers of leaves, and don't have branches or drop apples. In fact, there are a bunch of different kinds of spruce tree in Minecraft - from the smallest ones at about the height of an oak tree, to the largest which have a 2x2 trunk and can stretch far higher.
If you're not keen on forestry, then it's also possible to gather spruce wood from witch huts, taiga villages and bonus chests if you picked that option when creating your world. And why wouldn't you? It's free stuff, people!
Spruce can be crafted into anything that you can craft from oak and the other woods - mostly planks and bark. It's also able to be smelted into charcoal as a furnace, or will smelt 1.5 items per block if it's used as fuel.
In the real world, there are 35 different species of spruce - almost all of which are found in the coldest parts of the northern hemisphere. Spruce trees can grow up to sixty metres tall, and have thin, needle-like leaves that don't fall off in the winter.
These needles help the tree survive - they hold more water than a regular leaf, resist ice and snow, capture sunlight the whole year round, and are tough for insects to eat. I have learnt to my great pain that they also have a tendency to stick to your socks at Christmas and then jab into your foot when you're least expecting it.
The English name for spruce comes from Polish. In the late Middle Ages, traders from Prussia (which is now Poland) brought a lot of the wood to England, and so it became known as "z Prus", which means "from Prussia". Today, spruce wood is used mainly in construction, where it's tough and pretty plentiful. The Wright Brothers' "the Flyer" - the first aircraft to be flown - was made out of spruce. It's also used in paper-making and to make the soundboard in lots of musical instruments. And Christmas trees, of course, are often spruces.
But the fun fact that I'll leave you with this week is that spruce needles are actually full of vitamin C, which means that you can boil them into a tea for drinking to ward off scurvy in places where you can't get much fruit and veg. Tea is great. Why haven't we added tea to Minecraft yet? We should add tea to Minecraft. I'm off to drink some tea. BYE.