Picea abies

A European spruce originally planted for forestation

Picea abies Norway spruce

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneously

Spruce trees are conifers that are distinguished by having short, stiff, sharp and somewhat 4-sided needles. If a needle is rolled between the fingers, the corners can be easily felt. Each needle attaches individually to the stem, unlike the pines that attach in bundles. The needles tend to grow all around the twig. If a needle is pulled off the twig, it remains rough due to the persistent needle bases.

Spruces tend to grow in a sharp steeple shape and for that reason are popular ornamental and Christmas trees. As a group they tend to be a northern species and grow in the arctic up to the tree line. Spruce cones are brown and woody when mature and do not fall apart as they do in the firs. The cone scales are thin rather than heavy or thorny as in pines. The bark is rough and dark.

The Norway spruce was introduced from Europe and has become widespread in North America. It has naturalized to some degree but not enough to be considered invasive. It is more tolerant of hot humid summers than other spruce species and is disease resistant. It has needles that are mostly ½ to 1 inch long. The color varies from dark green to yellow green. The twigs are hairless or nearly so. This is the only spruce in our area that has branches that droop downwards as the tree grows over 20 feet tall.

The female cones of the Norway spruce are larger than other spruces - 4 to 6 inches long. These fall soon after maturity. Male cones are smaller. Seeds have a single wing. The tree can grow quite large—60-90 feet and have a trunk diameter of 1-3 feet. In the far north or in high mountain areas it may grow like a mat near the ground. It is one of the most popular Christmas tree species, but the needles will dry up and fall off in about two weeks if not kept moist. The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center in New York is almost always a Norway spruce since the branches are strong enough to hold the many lights and ornaments. It is also planted as a windbreak because of its rapid growth rate.

The Norway spruce is a source of Burgundy pitch and valuable for lumber. The DNA of the Norway spruce has recently been sequenced and it six times the size of the human genome, mostly due to many transposed repetitive sequences. The value or purpose of this extra DNA is not known.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Grows in forest plantations and other cultivated sites; escapes further into the woods.

Present throughout the state.

Wetland code:  Not classified

S-rank:  No rank
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Picea abies Norway spruce

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneously
Picea abies gallery
Plant Life-Form
evergreen tree
Common Names
Norway spruce