Trees – Norway spruce – Picea abies / Spruce Fir (Picea excelsa)

Trees & Shrubs – Norway spruce – Picea abies / Spruce Fir (Picea excels)

A spruce is a tree of the genus Picea /pˈsə/, a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the Family Pinaceae.

Picea abies, the Norway spruce, is a species of spruce native to Central and Eastern Europe. It grows up to 55 m (180 ft) tall, and bears needles 12–24 mm (0.47–0.94 in) long and cones 9–17 cm (3.5–6.7 in) long. It is very closely related to the Siberian spruce, Picea obovata, which replaces it east of the Ural Mountains, and with which it hybridises freely.

Norway-spruce-–-Picea-abies- Trees - Norway spruce - Picea abies / Spruce Fir (Picea excelsa)
Norway spruce – Picea abies

Picea abies is widely planted for its wood, and is the species used as the main Christmas tree in several cities around the world. Every Christmas, the Norwegian capital city, Oslo, provides London (the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree) and Edinburgh with a Norway spruce which is placed at the most central square of each city. This is mainly a sign of gratitude for the aid these countries gave during the Second World War. It is used as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens in London. (Wikipedia) LondonTreeSurgeons were contracted to remove the tree from The Houses of Parliament next to big ben.

Picea abies (L.) H. Karst is the accepted name of this species. More than 150 synonyms of Picea abies have been published, including Picea excels (The Spruce Fir ) used by Edward Step here.

The Spruce Fir (Picea excelsa).

Norway-spruce-Picea-abies-cone-and-foliage Trees - Norway spruce - Picea abies / Spruce Fir (Picea excelsa)
Norway spruce – Picea abies cone and foliage

Although we are compelled to class the Spruce among introduced species, it can lay claim to have been one of the older forest trees of Britain, for the upper beds of the Tertiary formations contain abundant evidence that the Spruce was a native here when those strata were laid down. Of its modern introduction there is no record, but from mention of it by Turner in his “Names of Herbes in Greke, Latin, Englishe, etc.,” we know that it was at some date anterior to the publication of that work (1548). It is widely distributed as a native tree throughout the continent of Europe, with the exception of Denmark and Holland. It is the principal forest tree on the elevated tracts of Germany and Switzerland, and on the central Alpine ranges it reaches an altitude of 6500 feet. It is an extremely variable tree, but we cannot here deal with the varieties beyond saying that two principal forms, different in habit and in timber, are outwardly distinguished by one having red, the other green, cones.

Norway-spruce-Picea-abies-trunk Trees - Norway spruce - Picea abies / Spruce Fir (Picea excelsa)
Norway spruce – Picea abies trunk

The Spruce Fir is a tall and graceful tree with tapering trunk, 120 to 150 feet in height, though in this country its more usual stature, when full-grown, would be about 80 feet high, with a bole circumference of about 9 feet. At first covered with thin, smooth, warm-brown bark, in later life this breaks up into irregular scales, thin layers of which are cast off. Instead of a bushy crown, such as we see in the Silver Fir, the Spruce ends in a delicate spire, so familiar in the Christmas-tree, which is a Spruce Fir in the nursery stage. The branches are in very regular tiers from base to summit, and the branchlets go off almost opposite each other, densely clothed with the short grass-green needles. These are from a half to three-quarters of an inch in length, four-sided, and ending in a fine sharp point. They endure for six or seven years.

The flowers are produced near the ends of last year’s shoots, those with stamens being borne singly or in clusters of two or three. They are about three-quarters of an inch in length, and of a yellow colour, tinged with pink. The cones, which hang downwards, are almost cylindrical, about 5 inches long and 1½ inches in diameter. The pale brown scales are thin, and loosely overlap. The seeds, of which there are two under each scale, are very small, with a transparent brown wing, five times the length of the seed. The flowers appear in May, and the seeds are not ripe until nearly a year later.

The tree is a shallow rooter, the roots going off horizontally in all directions a little below the surface, and becoming intimately matted with those of neighbouring trees. This surface-rooting often leads to disaster in plantations and forests of Spruce, for it is least able of all the firs to withstand a gale, which will sometimes make a broad avenue through the plantation by toppling the trees one against another.

Norway-spruce-Picea-abies Trees - Norway spruce - Picea abies / Spruce Fir (Picea excelsa)
Norway spruce – Picea abies

The wood of the Spruce Fir, though light, is even grained, elastic, and durable, and the straightness of its stem makes it very valuable for all purposes where great length and straightness are required, as for the masts of small vessels, ladders, scaffolding, telegraph-poles; as well as for the varied uses the builder finds for its planks. It supplies resin and pitch, and most of the cheaper periodicals now issued largely owe their existence to the Spruce, for its fibres reduced to pulp are made into the paper upon which they are printed. Although its growth during the first few years is rather slow, progress during the next twenty-five years is tolerably rapid, being at the rate of two or three feet per year, if in a favourable situation, and on moist light soil. When grown in a wood the Spruce loses its lower branches early, but when given sufficient “elbow-room,” these remain to a good old age, so that from spire to earth the graceful cone of bright green is continuous.

The name Spruce is from the German sprossen (a sprout), in allusion to the numerous short branchlets that are a characteristic of the tree.