Picea abies / Norway spruce

Picea abies, as described in 1881 by (Linnæus) Hermann Karsten (1817 - 1908), in Deutsche Flora. Pharmaceutisch-medicinische Botanik, is commonly known as Norway spruce; as well as epicéa commun in the French language; épinette de Norvège in French Canadian; as gemeine fichte in German; and as ель европейская (yel' yevropeyskaya) in Russian. The species name reflects early confusion between the spruces (Picea) and the silver firs (Abies) before the generic concepts stabilized into their present form.

Ethnobotany. A timber tree of major economic importance throughout the cool temperate areas of Europe. The commonest tree used for Christmas trees in the United Kingdom, despite its poor suitability for this purpose, with the leaves soon shed as it dries out. A herbal tea can be made from the leafy twigs and is reputed to have various curative powers, not tested medicinally.

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Description. Norway spruce is a large, fast-growing evergreen coniferous tree that grows to mature heights of 115 to 180 feet (35 – 55 m) tall with a trunk up to 3 to 5 feet (1 - 1.5 m) in diameter, measured at breast height. It is fast growing when young, up to 3 feet (1 m) per year for the first 25 years under good conditions, but becomes slower once over 60 feet (20 m) tall.

  • Shoots are orange-brown and glabrous (hairless) in texture.
  • Leaves are needle-like, 0.5 to 1 inch (12–24 mm) long, quadrangular in cross-section (not flattened), and dark green on all four sides with inconspicuous stomatal lines.
  • Pollen cones measure (12 - 25 mm) long and are purplish red in color.
  • Seed cones measure 4 to 7.5 inches (9 – 17 cm) long (the longest of any spruce), and have bluntly to sharply triangular-pointed scale tips. They are green or reddish when young, maturing brown 5 to 7 months after pollination.
  • Seeds are black, 0.16 to 0.2 inch (4 – 5 mm) long, with a pale brown, 0.6 inch (15 mm) wing.
natural range of <em>Picea abies,</em>
natural range of Picea abies,

Distribution. Norway spruce grows naturally throughout Europe from Norway in the northwest and Poland eastward, and also in the mountains of central Europe, southwest to the western end of the Alps, and southeast in the Carpathians and Balkans to the extreme north of Greece. The northern limit is in the arctic, just north of 70°N in Norway. Its eastern limit in Russia is hard to define, due to extensive hybridization and inter-gradation with the Siberian spruce (Picea obovata), but is usually given as the Ural Mountains. However, trees showing some Siberian spruce characters extend as far west as much of northern Finland, with a few records in northeast Norway.

Hardy to USDA Zone 3 — cold hardiness limit between -40° and -30°F (-39.9° and -34.4°C).

Attribution from: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Picea abies (species); courtesy of Sandra McLean Cutler, author of "Dwarf and Unusual Conifers Coming of Age"
Photo by Sandra McLean Cutler
Picea abies — seed cones in situ.
Photo by Judywhite/GardenPhotos.com
judywhite / GardenPhotos.com
Picea abies in the Fay Hiland Arboretum, Orono, Maine.
Photo by Don Levesque
Picea abies — rectangular needles, not that sharp-pointed
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies — profile of foliage, with male pollen cones still remaining
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies — maturing seed cones in situ.
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies — female cones, some opening to disperse their seeds, others still closed; male pollen cones still remaining in places
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
a comparison of various Picea cones.
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies — Norway spruce cones are notable for being some of the larger cones in the the spruce genus.
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies large cones lined up for measurement. Note the extending toothed apex of cone scales.
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies — note the characteristic curving up of ends of branches and the pendant branchlets of Norway spruce
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies — the needles are rectangular, not as sharp-pointed as Engelmann spruce
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies — closer view of the pendant branchlets
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies — the pendant, non-fragmenting, larger cones of Norway spruce
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies the cone's diamond-shaped scales with an extending, toothed apex
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Picea abies — pulvini (short stems) visible when spruce needles fall off
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca

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