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White Spruce Vs. Norway Spruce

The white spruce is a tree native to extreme northern parts of the United States and grows in much of Canada. The Norway spruce is an introduced species that hails from Europe. Both of these spruce trees are fashionable landscaping species planted extensively for their attributes. The white spruce and Norway spruce come in multiple cultivars, which mean there could be a type of these trees that will be a good fit for your home.


Use the subtle differences between these two spruce species to tell them apart. Observe that the needles of white spruce are bluish-green and up to three-quarters of an inch long. Norway spruce has shiny dark green needles that can reach an inch in length. Smell the needles of a white spruce and you will find that they produce an unpleasant odor when crushed that will remind you of the smell of skunk spray. The “National Audubon Field Guide to Trees” says that these needles smell like cat urine. Notice that the cones of the Norway spruce are the largest of all the spruce types, measuring as long as six inches, while the cones belonging to the white spruce rarely exceed 2.5 inches in length.


The white spruce grows between 40 and 100 feet tall, with its cultivars typically less than 50 feet high. Norway spruce can reach to 150 feet in the wild in its native range, but again the cultivars are much smaller, with few taller than 50 feet. Both types of spruces have evergreen needles that fall off after three or four years when new needles replace them.


In terms of planting these spruces, the two are quite similar. Transplanting them when they are big is usually not a difficult chore, as both will readily take hold after you bring them home from the nursery or move them from their original growing spot. Remember that all spruces do well in soil that is sandy and drains well and both of these species will grow best in acidic soils. Consider that since these trees are from cold northern latitudes, they greatly prefer cool weather, but you should place both in a spot on your acreage that gets the full dose of sunshine throughout the daylight hours.

Norway Spruce Cultivars

Utilize the Norway spruce as a screen type of tree, a windbreak or as a shade species but keep in mind the tree will require space to develop. Cultivars include types such as Nidiformis, which has the nickname of Bird’s Nest Spruce. Look at one and you will see this low plant is often wider than tall and shrub-like in appearance, so it makes a great plant to employ near building foundations. Pendula and Reflexa cultivars have drooping, weeping branches. Choose the Norway spruce that grows to 70 feet high if you desire a taller cultivar, the Pyramidata, which takes on a cone shape when mature. Virgata is a hybrid that offers you a tree with fewer branches and the ones that emerge will form odd patterns on the tree.

White Spruce Cultivars

Allow the white spruce to stand alone as a specimen plant on your land or employ the tree as windbreaks, screens or form a hedge with its shorter cultivars. Select the Conica hybrid, a commonly used white spruce, if you want multiple trees lining driveways and walkways. Realize that it grows to 12 feet high at its maximum height. Buy the Densata if you prefer a taller variety as it can be 40 feet tall and possesses dark green needles. Coerulea is a narrow white spruce that features gray-blue needles.

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