Norway Spruce – February 2013 Tree of the Month

by Ann Farnham, LLA

This beautiful evergreen tree, Norway spruce, is the Ewing Environmental Commission’s choice for the February Tree of the Month.

Norway Spruce, Picea abies, is not native to our area; it originated in northern Europe but does well here in USDA Hardiness Zone 6B. Its range is USDA Hardiness Zone 2 through 7, but it prefers the colder zones.

This tree has a formal, pyramidal shape and is usually dense and attractive even in its mature years. The needles measure ½ to 1” in length and are bright green when young changing to dark, shiny green when older. The cones, 4 to 6” long, are cylindrical, cone-shaped, and hang down from the branches. The growth rate is medium to fast and the tree can reach 100’ high although a height of 40 to 60’ and a spread of 25-30’ are more common. The branch ends in older trees become pendulous.

Norway Spruce has a shallow, spreading root system and prefers moderately moist, well drained, acid soils although most average soils will sustain this tree if moisture is sufficient. Full sun is necessary. Norway spruce is deer resistant.

Many experts feel that Norway spruce is over-used as it may lose its shape and usefulness in old age. Crowding the trees causes shaded branches to die out. They are used extensively as windbreaks or hedges and make beautiful ornamental specimens on large properties when young.

Spruce wood is strong and important in the manufacture of paper and pulp; rope is produced from the fibrous roots. The pitch is used for medicinal purposes and varnishes, and spruce beer (which once was thought to cure rickets) is made from the new, leafy shoots. Spruces are popular as Christmas trees.

Red spider, budworms, borers and spruce gall aphids are common problems for these trees; many infestations can be controlled with appropriate sprays.

The Ewing Environmental Commission ( welcomes suggestions for the Tree of the Month from all Ewing residents.

HINT: Many people have difficulty distinguishing spruce trees from fir trees. A good method for novices is to rub a needle between the thumb and fore-finger: if the needle is flat (F) it is a fir; if it seems square (S) it is a spruce.