Crooked Run Valley
Norway spruce (Picea abies)
Picea excelsa Link
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of Norway
spruce is Picea abies (L.) Karst. There are no currently accepted infra-
taxa, although a number of cultivars exist.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Norway spruce
is an introduced evergreen tree. In central Europe, heights of up to 203
feet (61 m) have been reported; the range is usually between 100 and
200 feet (30-61 m). The bole is usually straight and symmetrical, with
no tendency to fork. The bark of young trees has pale fine shreds.
The bark of older trees is usually heavy with algae and has shallow
rounded scales that are easily shed. The crown of young trees is narrowly
conic, that of older trees becoming broadly columnar. Secondary branch-
lets are characteristically drooping or pendulous. Norway spruce cones are
conspicuously large (4 to 7 inches [10-18 cm] long). The root system is
typically shallow, with several lateral roots and no taproot. On rocky sites
the roots spread widely, twining over the rocks. On bog soils, Norway
spruce tends to form plate-like roots. In Finland, a 140-year-old Norway
spruce forest in a Vaccinium-Myrtillus vegetation type had a root zone
extending only 12 inches (30 cm) into mineral soil.
Early growth of Norway spruce is slow, increasing to maximal rates from
20 to 60 years of age. Within its native range, Norway spruce remains
healthy up to 200 years, and lives up to 300 to 400 years at the northern
limits of its range. Senescence occurs at less than 200 years of age in the
British Isles and North America.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Norway spruce usually first reproduces
at 30 to 40 years of age. Good seed crops are produced every 3 to 4 years
in Britain, 8 to 10 years in Norway, and 12 to 13 years in Finland. Most of
the seeds are produced in the crowns of dominant stems; seed yield is low-
er in smaller stems in stands of the same age. Norway spruce seeds are
wind dispersed, but do not usually travel much farther than the height of
the parent tree. Movement after dispersal, however, can be considerable
when seeds are dispersed onto crusted snow and are pushed along on the
surface by wind. Seeds of Norway spruce germinate promptly and do not
require pretreatment or exacting light regimes. Moist chilling of some
spruce (Picea spp.) seeds removes the requirement for light. Optimum
germination temperature for Norway spruce seeds is around 73 degrees
Fahrenheit (23 deg C) but germination will occur up to about 91 degrees
Fahrenheit (33 deg C). Seedling growth is best at constant low temperature
(48 degrees Fahrenheit [9 deg C]), rather than with fluctuating tempera-
tures or steady high temperatures. The seedlings are sensitive to drought
and/or overheating, particularly when the soil surface is exposed to direct
insolation. In Utah, nursery-grown seedlings inclined to the south (to shade
the soil directly under the seedling and keep the roots cooler and wetter)
averaged 6 percent mortality from heat damage, whereas seedlings inclined
to the north averaged 30 percent mortality from the same cause. Other
studies support the hypothesis that shading improves early seedling sur-
vival. Thin humus (as opposed to thick humus) hinders Norway spruce
establishment since it dries out more quickly and ontributes to drought
stress of the seedlings.
Under natural conditions, particularly in areas of high humidity and high
soil moisture, Norway spruce reproduces by layering. It does not sprout
from stumps or roots.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Norway spruce grows best in cool, humid
climates on rich soils. Preferred soils include well-drained sandy loams. It
also grows well on almost all other types of soils. Permanently waterlogged
soils inhibit Norway spruce growth, but Norway spruce does occur on poor-
ly drained soils and in bogs. Growth rates increase with increased soil organ-
ic material and are positively correlated to the nitrogen content of the soil.
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Norway spruce is tolerant of shade. Nor-
way spruce stands form the climax forest of Scandinavia but stagnate with
age. Seeds of Norway spruce are probably not long lived in the soil, al-
though under good storage conditions remain viable for up to 7 years.
Disturbance events such as windfalls, snow damage, disease and insect
attack create small-scale gaps in the mature canopy. Norway spruce
depends largely on advance regeneration (seedling banks) to capture such
canopy gaps. Norway spruce is the most common gapmaker and it is also
the most common seedling in gaps. Seedlings survive in an extremely
stunted condition for many years. This reservoir of seedlings functions in
a way analogous to soil seedbanks. Suppressed Norway spruce saplings
can persist for several decades, retaining the ability to respond to canopy
gaps with increased growth.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Norway spruce cones open from May
to June. Seeds ripen in late autumn the same year. They are released on
warm days in late autumn and winter, but are sometimes retained until
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Norway spruce is native to the Euro-
pean Alps, the Balkan mountains, and the Carpathians, its range extending
north to Scandinavia and merging with Siberian spruce (Picea obovata) in
northern Russia. It was introduced to the British Isles as early as 1500 AD,
and is widely planted in North America, particularly in the northeastern
United States, southeastern Canada, the Pacific Coast states, and the Rocky
Mountain states. Naturalized populations are known from Connecticut to
Michigan and probably occur elsewhere.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: In its native
range, Norway spruce occurs in pure stands, transitional stands mixed
with Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), or mixed stands with European beech
(Fagus sylvatica) and European silver fir (Abies alba). Scattered Norway
spruce occurs in seral stands of European aspen (Populus tremula) or
hairy birch (Betula pubescens). Classification systems for Scandinavian
forests where Norway spruce and/or Scotch pine are the major species
re based on ground vegetation. Common groundlayer species include bil-
berry (Vaccinium myrtillus), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), heather
(Calluna vulgaris), and woodsorrel (Oxalis spp.). Good sites for Norway
spruce occur on Oxalis-Myrtillus types and fair sites are indicated by
Myrtillus. Vaccinium types are usually rather barren and not suited for
good spruce growth. Understory species most often associated with Nor-
way spruce in Poland include raspberry (Rubus idaeus) and European
mountain-ash (Sorbus aucuparia). Mature Norway spruce forests typical-
ly have very little groundlayer vegetation.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Norway spruce seedlings are highly pre-
ferred winter browse for snowshoe hares in Quebec. Browsing of seedlings
and saplings in plantations can be intense, as young plantations form ideal
winter habitat for snowshoe hares. Norway spruce is not a preferred
browse for moose in Scandinavia; young and middle-aged stands of Scotch
pine form habitat preferred by moose over mature Scotch pine-Norway
spruce forests and bogs. In Europe, red deer strip the bark of Norway
spruce. Other animals browse spruce foliage but it is not a highly preferred
food source for either wildlife or domestic animals. Norway spruce provides
important winter cover for a number of species of wildlife. Grouse eat
spruce leaves and the seeds are consumed by a number of birds and small
Norway spruce nursery stock is of extremely low preference to white-tailed
deer when compared with other ornamental species, including both conifers
Norway spruce was planted on surface mine spoils in Indiana from 1928 to
the 1960's. It tolerates acidic soils but is not well suited for dry or nutrient
Norway spruce has been widely planted in reforestation programs in the
eastern United States.
Norway spruce has been planted for windbreaks and shelterbelts in west-
ern prairies, although it grows better in more humid environments. It is
recommended for shelterbelt plantings in humid, severe-winter regions.
Norway spruce is widely planted for Christmas trees and as an ornamental.
Norway spruce roots can be used as grafting stock for white spruce (Picea
Norway spruce wood is strong, soft, straight- and fine-grained, and easily
worked. It is not durable in contact with soil. It is widely used for construc-
tion, pulp, furniture, and musical instruments. Norway spruce is one of the
most common and economically important coniferous species in Europe and
Scandinavia. In Maine, thinned material and standing dead Norway spruce
produced pulp of good strength as reported in a study of the pulp potential
of seven softwoods.
Norway spruce resin has been used to make Burgundy pitch, and the twigs
used to make Swiss turpentine. The twigs and needles were used to make
antiscorbutic and diuretic beverages.