Picea abies 'Brevifolia' / Short-leafed Norway spruce

Picea abies 'Brevifolia' is a name that is loosely used for various clones of many species. In Latin, the name means, simply, "short leaves." It is not necessarily a dwarf clone and the name cannot be clearly identified with any one clone. Many botanical authors recommend that this cultivar name be discarded.

In 1867, botanist, Otto Kuntze first described it under the name, Picea excelsa var. brevifolia and Ludwig Beissner describes an Abies excelsa var. brevifolia (Wittrock) in Hartman's Handbook of Scandinavian Flora from 1879. By 1923, Murray Hornibrook could find no trace of these plant nor any descriptions.

A different clone, Abies excelsa var. brevifolia Cripps ex Gordon (1875) was later renamed into Picea abies 'Crippsii' and formally described by Hornibrook in 1939, den Ouden and Boom in 1965, and lastly by Gerd Krüssmann in 1979, establishing it as a distinct cultivar. Note that Picea excelsa and Abies excelsa are early synonyms of Picea abies.

Many nurseries offer plants labeled Picea abies 'Brevifolia' with widely varying growth rates and branch structures. Unless someone can find a really ancient specimen somewhere, it will remain impossible to know with certainly if they are descendants of the 1867 plant, the 1879 plant, or something else entirely.

A specimen with the 'Brevifolia' name seen during the ACS tour of the Harper Collection at Hidden Lake Gardens in Tipton, Michigan.
Photo by Ken Church
Picea abies 'Brevifolia' — a completely different form from the first example.
Photo by Bill Barger