Picea engelmannii 'Snake' / Snake Engelmann spruce

Picea engelmannii 'Snake' is a delightful freak of a conifer for the larger garden or landscape. It is a robust, broadly upright selection of Engelmann spruce with sparse, undulating, snake-like branches and long, Blue gray needles. It's overall impression is that of a Blue Picea abies 'Virgata.' Due to the fact that lateral and secondary branching can be scarce at times, coupled with terminal buds that sometimes fail to elongate, entire branches may die back from time to time, adding to this spruce's overall strangeness. No two specimens look alike.

After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 m) tall and 6 to 8 feet (2 to 2.5 m) wide, an annual growth rate of 12 to 18 inches (30 - 45 cm).

This cultivar originated as a seedling selected in the early 1980s by Dr. Illa Martin of Viersen, Germany. Picea engelmannii 'Virgata' and 'Glauca Virgata' are both common, and illegitimate synonyms for this plant.

Picea engelmannii `Snake' — a wild, loose, single-stemed plant. Very rarely does the main leader have side branches. Will grow 2 feet a year. Leaves blue.
Photo by John Fertig
Picea engelmannii `Snake' — a very young specimen; has yet to branch.
Photo by John Fertig
Picea engelmannii `Snake' — a closeup of foliage detail.
Photo by Bill Barger
Picea engelmannii `Snake' — a fairly mature specimen in an arboretum setting.
Photo by Bill Barger