Picea abies (L.) Karsten
Norway spruce is one of the most important species on the European Continent. More than 100 forms and varieties have been named. Although not native to the Western hemisphere, the species and a number of its varieties are commonly planted here, particularly in southeastern Canada and northeastern United States. Originally, a number of plants were established as ornamentals, with Christmas tree plantings being established more recently. It has escaped cultivation in several localities and is considered naturalized in some of these areas.
In Europe, Norway spruce grows from 130 to 215 feet in height, but in the United States is seldom more than 130 feet tall. Diameter may reach as much as two feet on older trees. It is readily identified by its dark green needles and drooping branchlets. Trees have dark green crown with a triangular shape. Leaves (needles) are 4-sided (rectangular in section), 1/2-1 inch long, and sharp or somewhat blunt at the tip. At the base of each needle is a twig-like projection (sterigmata) which remains after the needle is lost. Although sometimes confused with true firs (Abies),
spruces in general have 1) rectangular rather than flat needles, and 2) cones which hang down rather than stand erect on the stem. Additionally, spruce cones fall from the tree after seeds are disseminated, whereas fir cones disintegrate.
The species has a reddish bark, giving it the nickname of "red fir", which flakes off in scales as the tree matures. The species is adapted to cool, temperate climates. Growth is best in full sunlight in deep, rich, moist soils. It is generally shallow-rooted and does not produce a taproot, thus is subject to being blown over by wind.