Norway Spruce Identification


The Norway spruce (Picea abies) is known in Europe as the "Mountain Spruce." This striking evergreen is native to both central and northern Europe, and has spread throughout the United States and Canada. Identify the Norway spruce by several characteristics: size, shape, needle color, needle arrangement, size of its cones and color and texture of its bark.

Size and Shape

A mature Norway spruce can grow 60 to 90 feet tall, with a spread of up to 40 feet. This pyramidal shaped spruce tree has a well-formed central leader and horizontal branching with vertical, hanging branchlets. Young trees are symmetrical and dense. As the tree matures it looses the symmetry in its upper branches--the canopy flattens out and the shape becomes irregular. Branchlets on the upper part of the tree begin to hang down as the tree ages. These hanging branches are called skirts.

Leaf Identification

The needles of the Norway spruce are dark green in color. The needles point forward on the twigs, as opposed to the Colorado spruce whose needles radiate in an outward direction from the twigs. The size of the needle is about 1 inch. Needles have rounded sides, not flat sides like the needles of a fir tree.


The Norway spruce is monoecious, which means that it has both male and female flowers present on the tree. The male flowers are the source of pollen for the female flowers. Cones are purplish-green in color. They later turn brown and grow 4 to 8 inches long. They can be found in the upper two-thirds of the spruce tree. Once the seeds are released from the cone, the cone falls to the ground.


Bark color of the Norway spruce is gray to brown and scaly in texture. Pruning sites may drip a white resin, which may appear on the bark. Dried resin may also drip from bark blisters.

Growth Habit

For the first 25 years--under ideal soil and water conditions--the Norway spruce can grow anywhere from 2 to 3 feet a year. If soil and water conditions are not ideal the spruce grows approximately 1 foot a year. The growth rate slows down when planted in partial shade. Shady conditions affect the height of the tree and the density of its branches. The Norway spruce is a large tree and requires a large planting site. It is not really suited for the average urban landscape.


This tall evergreen is native to Europe where it is grown at high altitudes. It is also found in the northeastern United States, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coastal region of the United States, as well as southeastern Canada. The Norway spruce requires a habitat that receives at least 20 inches of rain a year. It thrives in moist soil, and in regions that are humid and cool. This evergreen thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 2 to 8.

Keywords: Norway spruce tree, identification needles bark, habitat hardiness zones

About this Author

Paula M. Ezop’s inspirational column "Following the Spiritual Soul" appeared in "Oconee Today," a Scripps Howard publication. She has published her first book, "SPIRITUALITY for Mommies," and her children's chapter book, "The Adventures of Penelope Star," will be published by Wiggles Press. Ezop has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing for 10 years.