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Picea abies

Previously known as:

  • Abies picea
  • Pinus abies
Phonetic Spelling
PI-see-a A-beez
Description

The Norway spruce is a medium-sized evergreen conifer that reaches a height of 40 to 60 feet tall and is up to 25 to 30 feet wide. It has a pyramidal or conical habit with a strong central leader and pendulous branches. Juvenile growth form is elliptical-columnar, has spreading branches, and becomes pyramidal with pendulous branchlets. The bark of a young tree is thin, but as the tree matures the bark becomes thick grayish-brown. The needles are 1-inch long, four-sided, saber-like, green, and arranged in rows on the branch like a hair brush. The mature cones are silvery brown, 4 to 6 inches long, and hang down as they mature. 

This evergreen is native to northern and central Europe. It is the typical Christmas tree in Great Britain and has also served as the United States Capitol Christmas tree several times. There are over 150 cultivars available.

The genus name, Picea, is thought to be derived from the Latin word, pix, which means "pitch" and refers to the sticky resin that is found on the tree's bark. The specific epithet, abies, references a very similar genus, Abies or fir. The cones of the fir tree are upright; whereas, the cones of the Norway spruce are pendulous.

This tree has a shallow root system and prefers full sun, and moderately moist, well-drained, acidic soils. It prefers a cool climate and would be best suited for a northern climate. Norway spruce dislikes heat, wet feet, and hot, dry summers. 

When considering the Norway spruce, it is important to note that it does poorly in zone 7 in the southern United States because it prefers cool summer climates. In the appropriate climate, the Norway spruce could be used in a large home landscape, park, or recreational area. It can serve as a windbreak or screen in colder climates. Dwarf cultivars may be acquired to serve as foundation plantings, specimens, or accents in smaller areas of the home landscape. It is a majestic tree with pendulous lateral branchlets that may also serve as a Christmas tree. 

Seasons of Interest:

Foliage:  Year-round           Fruit:  Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • 40 to 60 feet tall needled evergreen, conical, upright branches when young and pendulous branches as it matures
  • needles are up to 1-inch long, green, four-sided, saber-like, and arranged on the branch in rows
  • cones are pendulous, green to violet when young, and as it ripens they turn silvery-brown and measure 4 to 6 inches long with rounded scales

Insects, Diseases, and Other Problems: Potential insect pests for the Norway spruce include aphids, bagworms, budworms, borers, and red spider mites. They are susceptible to cytospora canker, wood decay, needle cast, and rust.

 

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Mountain Ridge Top Garden - North Woods
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Acrocona', 'Aurea', 'Berry Gardens', 'Conica', 'Conica sport', 'Cranstonii', 'Cupressina', 'Doversi pendula', 'Fluke', 'Frohburg', 'Hillside Upright', 'Inversa', 'Maxwellii', 'Nidiformis', 'Pendula', 'Pumila', 'Pumila Glauca', var. abies
Tags:
#evergreen#full sun tolerant#needles#dark green#temperate#conifer#low maintenance#winter interest#tsc#air pollution tolerant#fast growing#well-drained soil#needled evergreen#non-flowering#Braham Arboretum#fantz#bird friendly#Christmas trees#tsc-cg#dense growth#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Acrocona', 'Aurea', 'Berry Gardens', 'Conica', 'Conica sport', 'Cranstonii', 'Cupressina', 'Doversi pendula', 'Fluke', 'Frohburg', 'Hillside Upright', 'Inversa', 'Maxwellii', 'Nidiformis', 'Pendula', 'Pumila', 'Pumila Glauca', var. abies
Tags:
#evergreen#full sun tolerant#needles#dark green#temperate#conifer#low maintenance#winter interest#tsc#air pollution tolerant#fast growing#well-drained soil#needled evergreen#non-flowering#Braham Arboretum#fantz#bird friendly#Christmas trees#tsc-cg#dense growth#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Picea
    Species:
    abies
    Family:
    Pinaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The tree is used for timber in Europe. It is commonly used as a Christmas tree in Great Britain. Herbal teas are made from leafy twigs. It is the most widely used spruce in North America for horticultural purposes.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Europe
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Bulgaria, Central European Russia, Czechoslovakia, East European Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Northern European Russian, Northwest European Russia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. Introduced: Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, Iceland, Ireland, Korea, Netherlands, New Brunswick, New South Wales, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Southern European Russia, Spain, and the United States--CT, IL, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, VT, VA, WV, and WI.
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds, moths, and small mammals are attracted to this tree.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    air pollution, deer
    Dimensions:
    Height: 40 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Conical
    Dense
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2b, 2a, 3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The cones are greenish to violet when young, and as they mature they become silvery-brown. They are 4 to 6 inches long and 1 to 2 inches in diameter with rounded scales. The scales have a blunt point and rounded tips. The thin scales are irregularly toothed and cylindrical. The cones are pendulous. The seeds are black and up to 0.2 inches long with a pale brown wing.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    The male flowers are yellowish-brown and appear in clusters along the stems. The female flowers are purple and upright. When the female flowers are pollinated, they turn green and hang downward as the cone matures.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Type:
    Needles
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Filiform
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves or needles are long, alternate, glossy, dense, radial, saber-shaped, stiff, pectinate with those on the upper side of twigs pointed forward, overlapping those below spreading to the right angles from exposed twigs, incurved apically, have lateral sides with 2-3 stomatal bands, are dark green, and up to 1-inch long. The four-sided needles are arranged in rows on the branch like a hairbrush and are attached by tiny pegs at their base.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Green
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Scaly
    Bark Description:
    The bark is purplish, green, or silvery-brown. The young bark is thin, and the tree matures the bark thickens and has flaky scales.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Orange
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The twigs are orangish-brown and then turn grayish-brown. The primary branches are mostly upturned, but the secondary branches rarely appear pendulous as the tree matures. The needles are spirally arranged along the branches in rows. The buds have loose, orangish-brown scales.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Pollution