Picea abies, Norway or European spruce, is a large evergreen coniferous tree in the Pinaceae (pine family) native to montane and boreal European forests, ranging from the European Alps to the Balkan and Carpathian Mountains, and extending north into Scandinavia and northern Russia. It is the most important timber species in Central Europe. It was introduced into the British Isles in the 1500s and is naturalized throughout. It is the most widely cultivated spruce species in North America, often planted as an ornamental and landscape tree in parks and cemeteries for its graceful, drooping form; dozens of cultivars have been developed, including dwarf, shrub, and creeping forms. Norway spruce has escaped cultivation and naturalized throughout the northeastern U.S. and Canada, from Maine to Minnesota, from northern Quebec to southern Virginia and North Carolina, as well as in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest states.
Norway spruce grows to 35-55 m (115-180 ft) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 1-1.5 m; it is fast-growing when young, and can grow up to 1 meter per year for 25 years. Leaves are needle-like, 1.2-2.4 cm (1/2 to 1 inch) long, quadrangular in cross-section (not flattened), and dark green on all four sides with inconspicuous white stomatal lines. Cones are 9-17 cm long (the longest of any spruce), and have bluntly to sharply triangular-pointed scale tips. There is extensive variation in characters across the range, with some botanists recognizing subspecies, along with hybridization with closely related species (see details below, in full entry).
Norway spruce is one of the most economically important coniferous species in Europe, where it is used in forestry for timber and timber products (such as glued laminated timber), and paper production, and is esteemed as a source of tonewood for musical instruments. It is also widely planted for use as a Christmas tree. A clonal clump (vegetative resprouts from a trunk of an initial stem that grew from seed but has since died back) of Norway spruce in the mountains in western Sweden is estimated to 9,550 years old—one of the world's oldest known living clones (as described in this Scientific American podcast).
(Barnes and Wagner 2004, FNA 2011, Gymnosperm Database 2011, Sullivan 1994, USDA Plants 2011, Wikipedia 2011)
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