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How to Manage and Identify Norway Spruce

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Norway Spruce

Wikimedia/Keila-Paldiski railway (Estonia)

Introduction to Norway Spruce:

Norway Spruce can grow 80 to 100 feet tall and spread 25 to 40 feet, though some listed cultivars are shrublike. It is the official Christmas tree used each Christmas at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Small-diameter branches sweep horizontally from the straight trunk which can grow to four feet thick. Branchlets droop from the branches toward the ground in a graceful, weeping fashion forming a delicate pyramid and makes a great Christmas tree.

Norway Spruce Specifics:

Scientific name: Picea abies
Pronunciation: PIE-see-uh AY-beez
Common name(s): Norway Spruce
Family: Pinaceae
USDA hardiness zones:USDA hardiness zones: 2B through 7A
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: screen; specimen; no proven urban tolerance
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range
Official Christmas tree used annually at New York City's Rockefeller Center during the holiday season.

Norway Spruce Cultivars:

There are a number of cultivars of Norway Spruce. Some are dwarf and shrublike, while others are trees. Not all will be available in nurseries. Cultivars include: ‘Clanbrasiliana’ - ‘Columnaris’ - ‘Gregoryana’ - ‘Humulis’ - ‘Inversa’ (large tree) - ‘Maxwelli’ - slow-growing, dense; ‘Nidiformis’ - ‘Nigra’ - Pendula’ - ‘Pumila’ - ‘Pygmea’ - ‘Pyramidata’ - ‘Reflexa’ - ‘Repens’ - ‘Stricta’ (tall tree)

Norway Spruce Description:

Height: 80 to 100 feet
Spread: 25 to 40 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical canopy with a regular (or smooth) outline, and individuals have more or less identical crown forms
Crown shape: pyramidal
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: slow
Texture: fine

History of Norway Spruce:

Norway spruce is one of the most important coniferous species on the European Continent. Although not native to North America, the species and a number of varieties are commonly planted here, particularly in southeastern Canada and northeastern United States. Christmas tree plantings of Norway spruce is a relatively recent activity and taken very seriously by some growers. It has escaped cultivation in several localities and is considered naturalized in some of these areas.

Norway Spruce Trunk and Branches:

Trunk/bark/branches: droop as the tree grows, and will require pruning for vehicular or pedestrian clearance beneath the canopy; not particularly showy; should be grown with a single leader; no thorns Pruning requirement: needs little pruning to develop a strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: medium

Norway Spruce Culture:

Light requirement: tree grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; loam; sand; slightly alkaline; acidic; occasionally wet; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerance: poor

In Depth:

Norway Spruce is best used as a specimen in a lawn area or as a wind break or screen, planted on 20- foot-centers. Rockefeller Center in New York City erects a Norway Spruce each Christmas next to the skating rink and decorates it for the holiday season. Norway Spruce tolerates most soils if moist and transplants easily if balled and burlapped or potted. Trees subjected to drought are much happier if they receive periodic irrigation although they tolerate drought well.

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