Picea abies 'Cranstonii' / Cranston's Norway spruce

Picea abies 'Cranstonii' is a massive, fast-growing, openly pyramidal tree form of Norway spruce with long thick intertwining branches and sparse laterals. Needles are long, dense and dark-green in color. After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 20 feet (6 m) or more tall and two-thirds as wide, an average annual growth rate of 2 feet (60 cm) or more. It's unique structural presence creates a powerful statement in a large landscape or arboretum.

This conifer is quite similar in structure to P. abies ‘Virgata,’ another large-growing snake spruce. The major distinction is the nature of the lateral branching. If they are generally flat and horizontal, the plant in question is ‘Virgata.’ If the branching is more upward-facing, it’s a ‘Cranstonii.’ In the U.S. nursery trade, the cultivars are often confused and interchanged by growers.

This cultivar originated as seedling selected in the early 1840s by Cranston Nursery, Hereford, United Kingdom.

Picea abies 'Cranstonii' — a mature plant in an arboretum setting. Green Industry Images, copyrighted photograph; permission granted.
Photo by Ernie Wiegand
Picea abies 'Cranstonii' — a handsome, mature specimen seen growing in a private arboretum, called "Peter's Opus," Sherman, Connecticut — a planting from the mid-1980s.
Photo by Susan Rostenberg
Picea abies 'Cranstonii' — a relatively young plant in an arboretum setting.
Photo by Bill Barger
Picea abies 'Cranstonii' — a closeup of foliage detail.
Photo by Bill Barger