Spruce trees are commonly cited examples of evergreen coniferous trees that have a desirable shape. The Norway spruce tree is indigenous to Europe. Hence, this massive tree is also known by the name 'European spruce'. Similar to other coniferous trees, it has a characteristic cone-shaped canopy. A central leader main stem with horizontal twigs is a noted feature of this spruce. Likewise, this tree possesses several characteristic traits that makes it unique amongst common cone-bearing trees.
The scientific name of the Norway spruce is Picea albies. It shares the pine family with many other spruces. One noteworthy things is this tree's height, which can extend to about 180 feet for some trees. Despite the height, this attractive tree is resistant to windbreaks. In fact, the branches can tolerate strong winds, snowfall, and ice.
When seen from a distance, the Norway spruce looks just like a pyramid. In addition to its height and the adorable shape of the canopy, an identifiable feature of this tree is a small-sized branch, which develops from all sides of the main stem in a whorled pattern. A number of drooping branches develop from each individual branch. This attractive shape makes this conifer a popular Christmas tree.
The foliage of the Norway spruce is needle-shaped and dark green in color. Believe it or not, the forward-pointing leaves are retained for more than 10 years. The bark is attractive and brownish-orange in color. Both male and female cones (red or green color) are produced in the same tree. The female cone turns brown after fertilization. This seed-bearing cone is the largest of all spruce trees (about 4-7 inches long), and matures within one year.
The steady growth rate in the first few years after plantation is a negative point with the Norway spruce. This is quite abnormally high in comparison to other spruces. When grown in well-drained soil and full sunlight, the tree grows to about 6-7 feet in 8 years.
Propagation is done through seeds isolated from the female cone, or young plants purchased from nurseries. Either way, this evergreen tree adapts well in cooler climates that receive a minimal amount of rainfall every year. Ideal growing conditions for this conifer are any type of rich soil that is free of drainage problems (even slightly acidic or alkaline soil will do) and optimal exposure to sunlight.
Caring for this conifer involves watering it at regular intervals to provide adequate moisture. Remember that this tree cannot tolerate saline soil and prolonged drought spells, particularly when young. Once it grows to a considerable height, you can limit water supply. Regarding maintenance, pruning should be done once in a while to remove weak branches and impart a definite shape, especially to older trees.
Exposure to stressful environment factors, like hot and dry conditions, increases the susceptibility of spruces to diseases. Otherwise, it is the most disease-resistant ornamental spruce variety. A common pest that affects the European spruce is the spruce beetle. Signs of infestation are leaf discoloration, followed by dropping leaves, which is unusual under natural conditions.
Though it is noted for its height and hardiness in a wide range of conditions, a drawback is the requirement for a large plantation area. However, as the tree possesses many desirable features, it is planted as a windbreak in areas prone to high velocity winds.