Picea abies 'Virgata' / Snake branch Norway spruce

Picea abies 'Virgata' is a robust, fast growing tree form of Norway spruce that generally grows with a dominant central leader. Branch arrangement usually solitary or growing in irregular whorls. They are long, horizontal, often intertwining, chaotic and "snake-like." The uppermost branches are directed upward and the lowermost, to include branchlets are quite pendulous. Usually without side buds. It is quite similar in structure to P. abies 'Cranstonii,' 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.

After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 25 feet (7 m) or more in height and two-thirds as wide, an annual growth rate in excess of 3 feet (1 m).

This cultivar originated in France and first described in botanical literature in 1853 by Henri Antoine Jacques.

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A large Picea abies 'Virgata' seen during the 2000 ACS National meeting at Hidden Lake Gardens. Part of the Harper Collection.
Photo by Bill Barger
A large Picea abies 'Virgata' seen during the 2000 ACS National meeting at Hidden Lake Gardens. Part of the Harper Collection.
Photo by Ken Church
Picea abies 'Virgata' in the Harper Collection of Dwarf & Rare Conifers at Hidden Lake Gardens, Tipton, Michigan, August 2005.
Photo by Dax Herbst
Picea abies 'Virgata' — detailing the strictly pendulous branchlets.
Photo by Bill Barger
Picea abies 'Virgata' — a young tree. Take notice of the flat lateral branching.
Photo by Bill Barger
Picea abies 'Virgata' — a closeup of foliage detail.
Photo by Bill Barger

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