Specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf area index (LAI) were estimated using site-specific allometric equations for a boreal black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) fire chronosequence in northern Manitoba, Canada. Stands ranged from 3 to 131 years in age and had soils that were categorized as well or poorly drained. The goals of the study were to: (i) measure SLA for the dominant tree and understory species of boreal black spruce-dominated stands, and examine the effect of various biophysical conditions on SLA; and (ii) examine leaf area dynamics of both understory and overstory for well- and poorly drained stands in the chronosequence. Overall, average SLA values for black spruce (n = 215), jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb., n = 72) and trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx., n = 27) were 5.82 ± 1.91, 5.76 ± 1.91 and 17.42 ± 2.21 m2 kg−1, respectively. Foliage age, stand age, vertical position in the canopy and soil drainage had significant effects on SLA. Black spruce dominated overstory LAI in the older stands. Well-drained stands had significantly higher overstory LAI (P < 0.001), but lower understory LAI (P = 0.022), than poorly drained stands. Overstory LAI was negligible in the recent (3–12 years old) burn sites and highest in the 70-year-old burn site (6.8 and 3.0 in the well- and poorly drained stands, respectively), declining significantly (by 30–50%) from this peak in the oldest stands. Understory leaf area represented a significant portion (> 40%) of total leaf area in all stands except the oldest.