Picea abies, the Norway spruce, is a species of spruce native to
Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. It has branchlets that
typically hang downwards, and the largest cones of any spruce,
9–17 cm (3 1⁄2–6 3⁄4 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.
The Norway spruce is widely planted for its wood, and is the species
used as the main
Christmas tree in several cities around the world. It
was the first gymnosperm to have its genome sequenced, and one clone
has been measured as 9,550 years old.
2 Range and ecology
9 See also
11 External links
An 1885 illustration of P. abies, showing the cones and leaves.
Norway spruce is a large, fast-growing evergreen coniferous tree
growing 35–55 m (115–180 ft) tall and with a trunk
diameter of 1 to 1.5 m (39 to 59 in). It can grow fast when
young, up to 1 m (3 ft) per year for the first 25 years
under good conditions, but becomes slower once over 20 m
(65 ft) tall. The shoots are orange-brown and glabrous
(hairless). The leaves are needle-like with blunt tips,
12–24 mm (15⁄32–15⁄16 in) long, quadrangular in
cross-section (not flattened), and dark green on all four sides with
inconspicuous stomatal lines. The seed cones are 9–17 cm
(3 1⁄2–6 3⁄4 in) long (the longest of any
spruce), and have bluntly to sharply triangular-pointed scale tips.
They are green or reddish, maturing brown 5–7 months after
pollination. The seeds are black, 4–5 mm
(5⁄32–3⁄16 in) long, with a pale brown 15-millimetre
The tallest measured Norway spruce is 62.26 m (204 ft) tall
and grows near Ribnica na Pohorju, Slovenia.
Range and ecology
The Norway spruce grows throughout
Europe from Norway in the northwest
and Poland eastward, and also in the mountains of central Europe,
southwest to the western end of the Alps, and southeast in the
Carpathians and Balkans to the extreme north of Greece. The northern
limit is in the arctic, just north of 70° N in Norway. Its
eastern limit in Russia is hard to define, due to extensive
hybridisation and intergradation with the Siberian spruce, but is
usually given as the Ural Mountains. However, trees showing some
Siberian spruce characters extend as far west as much of northern
Finland, with a few records in northeast Norway. The hybrid is known
as Picea × fennica (or P. abies subsp. fennica, if the two taxa
are considered subspecies), and can be distinguished by a tendency
towards having hairy shoots and cones with smoothly rounded
Norway spruce cone scales are used as food by the caterpillars of the
tortrix moth Cydia illutana, whereas
Cydia duplicana feeds on the bark
around injuries or canker.
The Trafalgar Square
Christmas tree in 2008. Given to
year as a gift from Norway's capital city, Oslo, Norway spruces that
are around 50 to 60 years old are typically used.
The Norway spruce is one of the most widely planted spruces, both in
and outside of its native range, and one of the most economically
important coniferous species in Europe. It is used as an
ornamental tree in parks and gardens. It is also widely planted for
use as a Christmas tree. Every Christmas, the Norwegian capital city,
Oslo, provides the cities of
London (the Trafalgar Square Christmas
tree), Edinburgh and Washington D.C. 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. In North America, Norway spruce is widely planted,
specifically in the northeastern, Pacific Coast, and Rocky Mountain
states, as well as in southeastern Canada. It is naturalised in some
parts of North America. There are naturalised populations occurring
Connecticut to Michigan, and it is probable that they occur
elsewhere. Norway spruces are more tolerant of hot, humid weather
than many conifers which do not thrive except in cool-summer areas and
they will grow up to USDA Growing Zone 8.
In the northern US and Canada, Norway spruce is reported as invasive
in some locations, however it does not pose a problem in Zones 6 and
up as the seeds have a significantly reduced germination rate in areas
with hot, humid summers.
The Norway spruce tolerates acidic soils well, but does not do well on
dry or deficient soils. From 1928 until the 1960s it was planted on
surface mine spoils in Indiana.
The Norway spruce is used in forestry for (softwood) timber, and
The tree is the source of spruce beer, which was once used to prevent
and even cure scurvy. This high vitamin C content can be consumed
as a tea from the shoot tips or even eaten straight from the tree when
light green and new in spring.
It is esteemed as a source of tonewood by stringed-instrument
makers. One form of the tree is called Haselfichte (de)
(Hazel-spruce) which grows in the European Alps and has been
recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. This form was
used by Stradivarius for instruments. (see German for
Norway spruce shoot tips have been used in traditional Austrian
medicine internally (as syrup or tea) and externally (as baths, for
inhalation, as ointments, as resin application or as tea) for
treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, locomotor
system, gastrointestinal tract and infections.
A press release from
Umeå University says that a Norway spruce clone
named Old Tjikko, carbon dated as 9,550 years old, is the "oldest
However, Pando, a stand of 47,000 quaking aspen clones, is estimated
to be between 80,000 and one million years old.
The stress is on the difference between the singular "oldest tree" and
the multiple "oldest trees", and between "oldest clone" and "oldest
non-clone". The oldest known individual tree (that has not taken
advantage of vegetative cloning) is a Great Basin bristlecone pine
over 5,000 years old (germination in 3051 BC).
The genome of
Picea abies was sequenced in 2013, the first gymnosperm
genome to be completely sequenced. The genome contains
approximately 20 billion base pairs and is about six times the size of
the human genome, despite possessing a similar number of genes. A
large proportion of the spruce genome consists of repetitive DNA
sequences, including long terminal repeat transposable elements.
Despite recent advances in massively parallel DNA sequencing, the
assembly of such a large and repetitive genome is a particularly
challenging task, mainly from a computational perspective.
Within populations of
Picea abies there is great genetic variability,
which most likely reflect populations' post-glacial evolutionary
history. Genetic diversity can in particular be detected when looking
at how the populations respond to climatic conditions. E.g. variations
in timing and length of the annual growth period as well as
differences in frost-hardiness in spring and autumn. These annual
growth patterns are important to recognise in order to choose the
proper reforestation material of Picea abies.
p-Hydroxybenzoic acid glucoside, picein, piceatannol and its glucoside
(astringin), isorhapontin (the isorhapontigenin glucoside), catechin
and ferulic acid are phenolic compounds found in mycorrhizal and
non-mycorrhizal roots of Norway spruces. Piceol and
astringin are also found in P. abies.
Picea abies have shown inhibitory activity on porcine
pancreatic lipase in vitro.
Cones of P. obovata and Picea abies
Cones of P. obovata are short and have rounded scales.
Cones of P. abies are longer and have pointed scales.
Populations in southeast
Europe tend to have on average longer cones
with more pointed scales; these are sometimes distinguished as Picea
abies var. acuminata (Beck) Dallim. & A.B. Jacks., but there is
extensive overlap in variation with trees from other parts of the
Some botanists treat
Siberian spruce as a subspecies of Norway spruce,
though in their typical forms, they are very distinct, the Siberian
spruce having cones only 5–10 cm long, with smoothly rounded
scales, and pubescent (hairy) shoots.
Genetically Norway and
Siberian spruces have turned out to be extremely similar and may be
considered as two closely related subspecies of P. abies.
Another spruce with smoothly rounded cone scales and hairy shoots
occurs rarely in the Central Alps in eastern Switzerland. It is also
distinct in having thicker, blue-green leaves. Many texts treat this
as a variant of Norway spruce, but it is as distinct as many other
spruces, and appears to be more closely related to Siberian spruce
(Picea obovata), Schrenk's spruce (Picea schrenkiana) from central
Asia and Morinda spruce (Picea smithiana) in the Himalaya. Treated as
a distinct species, it takes the name Alpine spruce (Picea alpestris
(Brügger) Stein). As with Siberian spruce, it hybridises extensively
with Norway spruce; pure specimens are rare. Hybrids are commonly
known as Norwegian spruce, which should not be confused with the pure
species Norway spruce.
Picea abies (L.) H. Karst is the accepted name of this species.
More than 150 synonyms of
Picea abies have been published.
Homotypic synonyms of
Picea abies are:
Pinus abies L.
Abies picea Mill.
Pinus pyramidalis Salisb.
Pinus abies subsp. vulgaris Voss
Abies abies (L.) Druce
Some heterotypic synonyms of
Picea abies are:
Abies alpestris Brügger
Abies carpatica (Loudon) Ravenscr.
Abies cinerea Borkh.
Abies clambrasiliana Lavallée
Abies clanbrassiliana P. Lawson
Abies coerulescens K. Koch
Abies conica Lavallée
Abies elegans Sm. ex J.Knight
Abies eremita K.Koch
Abies erythrocarpa (Purk.) Nyman
Abies excelsa (Lam.) Poir.
Abies extrema Th.Fr.
Abies finedonensis Gordon
Abies gigantea Sm. ex Carrière
Abies gregoryana H. Low. ex Gordon
Abies inverta R. Sm. ex Gordon
Abies lemoniana Booth ex Gordon
Abies medioxima C.Lawson
Abies minuta Poir.
Abies montana Nyman
Abies parvula Knight
Abies subarctica (Schur) Nyman
Abies viminalis Wahlenb.
Picea alpestris (Brügger) Stein
Picea cranstonii Beissn.
Picea elegantissima Beissn.
Picea excelsa (Lam.) Link
Picea finedonensis Beissn.
Picea gregoryana Beissn.
Picea integrisquamis (Carrière) Chiov.
Picea maxwellii Beissn.
Picea montana Schur
Picea remontii Beissn.
Picea rubra A. Dietr.
Picea subarctica Schur
Picea velebitica Simonk. ex Kümmerle
Picea viminalis (Alstr.) Beissn.
Picea vulgaris Link
Pinus excelsa Lam.
Pinus sativa Lam.
Pinus viminalis Alstr.
Picea abies 'Inversa'
Picea abies 'Virgata'
Several cultivars have been selected for garden use (‘Barrya’,
‘Capitata’, ‘Decumbens’, ‘Dumosa’, ‘Clanbrassiliana’,
‘Gregoryana’, ‘Inversa’, ‘Microsperma’, ‘Nidiformis’,
‘Ohlendorffii’, ‘Repens’, ‘Tabuliformis’, ‘Maxwellii’,
'Virgata', 'Inversa' и ‘Pendula’); they are occasionally traded
under the obsolete scientific name Picea excelsa (an illegitimate
name). The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural
Society's Award of
List of Lepidoptera that feed on spruces
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IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of Threatened
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Downloaded on 20 February 2018.
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^ a b c d e Rushforth, K. (1987). Conifers. Helm
^ a b c d e
Gymnosperm Database: Picea abies
^ Den Virtuella Floran:
Picea abies distribution (in Swedish, with
Picea abies records". Monumental trees.
^ a b c Sullivan, Janet (1994). "Picea abies". Fire Effects
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^ British Embassy Oslo. "Oslo's
Christmas tree gift to Trafalgar
Square". GOV.UK. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
^ Buckley, Michael (2005). "A basic guide to softwoods and hardwoods"
(PDF). worldhardwoods.com. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
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^ "World's oldest living tree discovered in Sweden". Umeå University.
April 16, 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
^ Quaking Aspen by the
Bryce Canyon National
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history of quaking aspen". BioScience. 46 (1): 25–31.
doi:10.2307/1312652. JSTOR 1312652.
Spruce Is World's Oldest Tree: Scientific American Podcast
^ "Old List". Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research. Retrieved 16 August
^ Nystedt, B.; Street, N.R.; Wetterbom, A.; Zuccolo, A.; Lin, Y.C.;
Scofield, D.G.; Vezzi, F.; Delhomme, N.; Giacomello, S.; Alexeyenko,
A.; et al. (30 May 2013). "The Norway spruce genome sequence and
conifer genome evolution". Nature. 497 (7451): 579–584.
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^ Birol, I.; Raymond, A.; Jackman, S.D.; Pleasance, S.; Coope, R.;
Taylor, G.A.; Yuen, M.M.; Keeling, C.I.; Brand, D.; Vandervalk, B.P.;
et al. (2013). "Assembling the 20 Gb white spruce (Picea glauca)
genome from whole-genome shotgun sequencing data". Bioinformatics. 29
(12): 1492–1497. doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btt178.
PMC 3673215 . PMID 23698863.
^ Skrøppa, T. (2003). "
Picea abies - Norway spruce" (PDF). EUFORGEN;
Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use.
^ Münzenberger, B.; Heilemann, J.; Strack, D.; Kottke, I.;
Oberwinkler, F. (1990). "Phenolics of mycorrhizas and non-mycorrhizal
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^ "Screening of selected food and medicinal plant extracts for
pancreatic lipase inhibition". Phytotherapy Research. 23: 874–877.
doi:10.1002/ptr.2718. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
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hybridization and phylogenetic relationships between Norway, Picea
abies (L.) Karst., and Siberian, P. obovata Ledeb., spruce species
studied by isozyme loci". Heredity. 74 (5): 464–480.
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Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 14 March 2014
– via The
Picea abies (L.) H.Karst., Deut. Fl.: 325 (1881). Homotypic
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Plant Families. Retrieved 14
Plant Selector –
Picea abies 'Little Gem'". Retrieved 26 May
Plant Selector –
Picea abies 'Nidiformis'". Retrieved 26 May
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Picea abies.
Wikispecies has information related to Picea abies
Spruce Genome Project at Congenie.org
Picea abies - distribution map, genetic conservation units and related
European Forest Genetic Resources Programme (EUFORGEN)
Plant List: kew-2562738