Information About Norway Spruce

Overview

Norway spruce (Picea abies) gets its name from both the tree's native habitat (Northern Europe and Scandinavia) and its likeness to another group of conifers. "Abies," in botanical terms, means "fir." Thus, you could translate its Latin name to "fir spruce." According to a1994 U. S. Forestry Service post, it is the tree of choice each December for Rockefeller Center in New York.

Identification

Two particular qualities distinguish the Norway from other types of spruce trees. The branches of the Norway spruce tend to reach upward from the ground, a feature quite visible from a distance. Also, as stated in an Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry post, "dark green needles point forward along the twigs, making this species of spruce easier to grasp with the hand than the more prickly Colorado spruce, whose needles radiate outward." Needles are approximately 2 inches long. The cones appear purple-green, almost flawlessly shaped. They grow up to 7 inches long, and turn brown later in the season. The Norway spruce possesses bark that is gray-brown and scaly, with white resin speckles.

Growth Characteristics

The Norway spruce grows at a medium rate into a pyramidal shape, up to100 feet tall and 40 feet wide. As the tree matures, branchlets hang straight down, several feet from the main limbs. A main, central leader dominates the growth structure, and the tree becomes relatively strong under the pressure of ice and strong winds. A shallow, dense root structure remains close to the base of the tree.

Location and Habitat

A native of Europe, the Norway spruce can be found throughout most of the northern two-thirds of the United States and southern Canada. Planted regularly as a screen tree in urban areas, it is cold hardy in zones 3-7, and adapts well to most locations throughout that area. The Norway spruce grows best in sunny areas at high elevations and can tolerate just about any type of well-drained soil.

Potential Problems

Generally considered a healthy species of tree, the Norway spruce is susceptible to a few environmental pests. Wet soils will prevent a young tree from succeeding. The fungal disease cytospora canker may infect damaged branches, turning lower branches brown and eventually killing them. The most common insect pests include spider mites, particularly during dry, hot weather, and two forms of gall adelgids, described by the U.S. Forestry Service: "Eastern spruce gall adelgid forms pineapple-like galls at the base of twigs. Galls caused by Cooley's spruce gall adelgid look like miniature cones at the branch tips."

Planting Considerations

The Norway spruce transplants well and prefers well-drained acidic soil. It will tolerate soils with a higher pH value when others will not, however. When planing for an urban landscape, consider purchasing one of a few dwarf or smaller varieties that may grow at a slower rate. The shallow roots and drooping branches of a Norway spruce may inhibit grass growth underneath the canopy. Given this and the eventual height potential, plant this tree as a perimeter planting or weather screen.

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