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Overview

Brief Summary

Pinaceae -- Pine family

    Gilbert H. Fechner

    Blue spruce (Picea pungens) is also called Colorado blue spruce,  Colorado spruce, silver spruce, and pino real. It is a slow-growing,  long-lived tree of medium size that, because of its symmetry and color, is  planted extensively as an ornamental. Because blue spruce is relatively  scarce and the wood is brittle and often full of knots, it is not an  important timber tree.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Gilbert H. Fechner

Source: Silvics of North America

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Picea pungens, known as blue spruce, Colorado blue spruce, Colorado spruce, silver spruce, and pino real, is a slow- growing, medium-sized, long-lived conifer tree in the Pinaceae (pine family) that is planted extensively as an ornamental because of its symmetric form and attractive color. It is the State Tree of Colorado and Utah. It is not an important timber tree because it is relatively scarce, and the wood is brittle and often full of knots.

Blue spruce is a species of the montane zone in the central and southern Rocky Mountains of the western United States, Its range extends from latitude 33° 50' to 48° 54' N. and from longitude 104° 45' to 114° 00' W.; the Rocky Mountain region in high mountains from southern and western Wyoming, eastern Idaho, south to Utah, northern and eastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, to central Colorado. It has been reported in isolated locations in north-central Montana.

It is a dominant species in some forests, but is more commonly a minor component of other conifer or mixed conifer-deciduous forests. Over the bulk of its range, blue spruce is most frequently associated with Rocky Mountain douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca), ponderosa pine and (Pinus ponderosa, and with white fir (Abies concolor) on mesic sites in the central Rocky Mountains. Blue spruce is seldom found in large numbers, but on streamside sites it is often the only coniferous species present.

Blue spruce is valued mainly for its appearance. Shortly after the species was discovered in 1861, writers described it as "a finely shaped tree" and "the most beautiful species of conifer," alluding to the symmetrical, pyramidal form and the glaucous, bluish or silvery-gray foliage that some trees of the species display. The needle coloration, caused by the presence of surface waxes, apparently intensifies with tree age. These traits of symmetry and blue or silver-gray cast, so common in horticultural plantings, are only occasionally found in natural stands. In nature, trees with similar color tend to occur in small, local populations, suggesting genetic control of the color trait.

Blue spruce is widely used as an ornamental, not only in the United States, but in Europe, where it was introduced late in the 19th century. At least 38 cultivars of blue spruce have been named, based primarily on leaf coloration and crown form. Although young blue spruce usually show a pronounced layering of stiff branches, which give it a distinct pyramidal form, the branches begin to droop and the crown becomes thin and irregular as the tree ages. The trunk tapers rapidly, and epicormic shoots commonly develop, giving the tree a ragged appearance. Blue spruce is prized as a Christmas tree, and plantations have been established in its native range as well as in north-central and northeastern United States.

Excerpted and edited from Fechner 1990.

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Gilbert H. Fechner

Supplier: Jacqueline Courteau

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Comprehensive Description

Description

General: Pine Family (Pinaceae). Native trees growing to 50 meters tall, the crown long-conic; branches whorled, ascending to slightly to strongly drooping; twigs not pendent, stout, yellow-brown, usually without hair; many small twigs produced on the main trunk and between the main whorls of branches; bark relatively thick, gray-brown, breaking into furrows and rounded ridges, only slightly scaly. Needles are evergreen, borne singly and at right angles from all sides of the twig, 1.6-3 cm long, 4-angled, stiff and sharply spine-tipped, silvery to blue-green. Seed cones are green or violet, ripening pale buff, (5) 6-11 (12) cm long, ellipsoid, pendent, the scales elliptic to diamond-shaped, widest below middle, stiff at the base, the tip flexible, unevenly toothed, and extending 8-10 mm beyond seed-wing impression. The common name is based upon the blue foliage color of some races.

Variation within the species: trees with similar color tend to occur in small, local populations, suggesting that color traits are under genetic control. The color variation does not conform to a clinal pattern. Most other variable features in blue spruce (e.g., physiology, early survival, growth rate) similarly do not follow geographical parameters; date of bud set follows a local altitudinal pattern.

Besides features of habit, leaf color, and habitat, blue spruce is distinguished from Engelmann spruce by its cones and cone scales that average larger in size, but these characteristics are often partially or completely overlapping. Blue spruce also differs in its glabrous twigs.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

Colorado blue spruce, white spruce, silver spruce, Parry spruce, water spruce, Picea parryana Sargent

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

Blue spruce is restricted to the central and southern Rocky Mountains.
Its range extends from scattered populations in eastern Idaho and
western Wyoming to better developed populations in Utah and Colorado.
The range of blue spruce continues southward into Arizona and New Mexico
[22,38,77,103,104]. It occurs rarely in north-central Montana [113].
  • 22. Daubenmire, R. 1972. On the relation between Picea pungens and Picea engelmannii in the Rocky Mountains. Canadian Journal of Botany. 50: 733-742. [15665]
  • 38. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1990. Picea pungens Engelm. blue spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 238-249. [13387]
  • 77. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1950. Southwestern trees: A guide to the native species of New Mexico and Arizona. Agriculture Handbook No. 9. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 109 p. [20330]
  • 103. Safford, L. O. 1974. Picea A. Dietr. spruce. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 587-597. [7728]
  • 104. Sargent, Charles Sprague. 1933. Manual of the trees of North American (exclusive of Mexico). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 910 p. [20907]
  • 113. Strong, W. L. 1978. Evidence for Picea pungens in north-central Montana and its significance. Canadian Journal of Botany. 56: 1118-1121. [20906]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

More info on this topic.

This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont

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Occurrence in North America

AZ CO HI ID MT NM UT WY

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Blue spruce is primarily native to the central and southern Rocky  Mountains of the western United States. Its range extends from latitude 33°  50' to 48° 54' N. and from longitude 104° 45' to 114° 00'  W.; the Rocky Mountain region in high mountains from southern and western  Wyoming, eastern Idaho, south to Utah, northern and eastern Arizona,  southern New Mexico, to central Colorado. It has been reported in isolated  locations in north-central Montana (83).

     
- The native range of blue spruce.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Gilbert H. Fechner

Source: Silvics of North America

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Adaptation

Blue spruce commonly occurs on stream banks in moist canyon bottoms (hence one of its common names, water spruce) but may grow on gentle to steep mountain slopes in Douglas fir or spruce-fir woods up to timberline; at 1800-3000 meters elevation in mid-montane forests. It often grows with subalpine fir, white fir, and Engelmann spruce. It is cultivated on a wide variety of soils, except those that are very moist.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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The native range of blue spruce is the central and southern Rocky Mountains of the USA – in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the term: tree

Blue spruce is a native evergreen tree with a dense, pyramidal to
spire-shaped crown [75,116,122]. It can be 70 to 115 feet (21-35 m)
tall with a diameter up to 3 feet (0.91 m) [103,104,115,122]. The bark
is 0.75 to 1.5 inches (1.9-3.8 cm) thick [104]. Branches are stout and
horizontal to drooping [65,122]. The leaves are four-angled, stiff with
sharp points, and 1 to 1.25 inches (2.5-3.2 cm) long [37,68]. Cones are
2.5 to 4 inches (6.4-10.2 cm) long with thin, flexible scales [77]. The
seeds are 0.13 inch (0.3 cm) long, about half the length of the wings
[104].

The largest blue spruce recorded was from Colorado at 126 feet (38.4 m)
tall with 60.8 inches (154.4 cm) d.b.h. [38]. The oldest blue spruce
was 600 years [86].
  • 68. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2d ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563]
  • 37. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1985. Silvical characteristics of blue spruce. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-117. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 19 p. [7478]
  • 38. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1990. Picea pungens Engelm. blue spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 238-249. [13387]
  • 65. Johnson, Carl M. 1970. Common native trees of Utah. Special Report 22. Logan, UT: Utah State University, College of Natural Resources, Agricultural Experiment Station. 109 p. [9785]
  • 75. Lanner, Ronald M. 1983. Trees of the Great Basin: A natural history. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. 215 p. [1401]
  • 77. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1950. Southwestern trees: A guide to the native species of New Mexico and Arizona. Agriculture Handbook No. 9. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 109 p. [20330]
  • 86. Moir, W. H. 1992. Ecological concepts in old-growth forest definition. In: Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Moir, W. H.; Bassett, Richard L., technical coordinators. Old-growth forests in the southwest and Rocky Mountain regions: Proceedings of a workshop; 1992 March 9-13; Portal, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-213. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 18-23. [19038]
  • 103. Safford, L. O. 1974. Picea A. Dietr. spruce. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 587-597. [7728]
  • 104. Sargent, Charles Sprague. 1933. Manual of the trees of North American (exclusive of Mexico). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 910 p. [20907]
  • 115. Szaro, Robert C. 1989. Riparian forest and scrubland community types of Arizona and New Mexico. Desert Plants. 9(3-4): 70-138. [604]
  • 116. Szaro, Robert C. 1990. Southwestern riparian plant communities: site characteristics, tree species distributions, and size-class structures. Forest Ecology and Management. 33/34: 315-334. [10031]
  • 122. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Physical Description

Tree, Evergreen, Monoecious, Habit erect, Trees without or rarely having knees, Tree with bark rough or scaly, Young shoots 3-dimensional, Buds resinous, Buds not resinous, Leaves needle-like, Leaves alternate, Needle-like leaf margins entire (use magnification), Leaf apex acute, Leaf apex spine tipped or with a differentiated and very sharp tip, Leaves < 5 cm long, Leaves < 10 cm long, Leaves blue-green, Needle-like leaves 4-angled, Needle-like leaves not twisted, Needle-like leaf habit erect, Needle-like leaf habit drooping, Needle-like leaves per fascicle mostly 1, Needle-like leaf sheath early deciduous, Needle-like leaf sheath persistent, Twigs glabrous, Twigs viscid, Twigs not viscid, Twigs with peg-like projections or large fascicles after needles fall, Berry-like cones orange, Woody seed cones > 5 cm long, Bracts of seed cone included, Seeds brown, Seeds winged, Seeds unequally winged, Seed wings prominent, Seed wings equal to or broader than body.
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Stephen C. Meyers

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Description

Trees to 50m; trunk to 1.5m diam.; crown broadly conic. Bark gray-brown. Branches slightly to strongly drooping; twigs not pendent, stout, yellow-brown, usually glabrous. Buds dark orange-brown, 6--12mm, apex rounded to acute. Leaves 1.6--3cm, 4-angled in cross section, rigid, blue-green, bearing stomates on all surfaces, apex spine-tipped. Seed cones (5--)6--11(--12)cm; scales elliptic to diamond-shaped, widest below middle, 15--22 ´ 10--15mm, rather stiff, margin at apex erose, apex extending 8--10mm beyond seed-wing impression. 2 n =24.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Picea parryana Sargent
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Picea pungens is a subalpine species occurring in the Rocky Mountains at elevations between 1,800 m and 3,300 m a.s.l., commonly along mountain streams or on moist, N-facing slopes. The soils are mountain lithosols and streambed gravels of various origin, usually poorly developed. The climate is continental, with long, cold and snowy winters (frost free days 60 or less) and short, but relatively warm summers. Annual precipitation ranges from 600 mm to 900 mm. This species grows in small, scattered groves, especially near perennial streams, or scattered and mixed with Pinus contorta, Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca, or Populus tremuloides. It is everywhere a rare constituent of the subalpine forest.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

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Habitat characteristics

The shallow roots of blue spruce restrict it to moist sites where water
is close to the surface [75]. Blue spruce occurs on montane
streambanks; well-drained floodplains or cobble flats; first-level
terraces; ravines; intermittent streams; or subirrigated, gentle slopes
[37,60,75,104].

Throughout much of its range, blue spruce grows in cool climates that
are subhumid to humid, characterized by low summer temperatures and low
winter precipitation [37]. In the southern end of its range, it may be
restricted to riparian areas in arid and semiarid climates;
precipitation occurs bimodally with dry springs [92]. Average annual
precipitation in blue spruce habitats varies from 18 to 24 inches
(460-610 mm) [37].

Blue spruce typically occurs at mid-elevations. In Wyoming, blue spruce
is abundant along streams at 6,750 feet (2,057 m) in elevation and
extends up into subalpine zones to 10,499 feet (3,200 m) [37,61]. In
Utah, blue spruce occurs from 6,500 to 8,400 feet (1,981-2,560 m) in
elevation, where often the parent material is limestone or calcareous
sandstone [15,38,65]. In Colorado, blue spruce occurs in canyons from
6,700 to 8,530 feet (2,042-2,600 m) in elevation and on canyon slopes
from 9,800 through 11,500 feet (2,987-3,505 m) in elevation [61,70,74].
Blue spruce occurs from 7,500 to 9,842 feet (2,285-3,000 m) in elevation
in Arizona and New Mexico [1,84,116].

Blue spruce grows on a variety of soil types. Usually, soils are young
and undeveloped; however, soil textures may be deep sandy to gravelly
loams that are well drained [37,61]. Soils are commonly derived from
fluvium, alluvium, and colluvium [60,110]. Soils may have a litter
layer up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) thick [61]. Soil temperature regimes are
frigid in montane canyons to cryic at higher elevations [26,85]. Blue
spruce stands are often associated with areas of cold air drainage
[60,128]. Blue spruce occurs on flat to moderate (12 to 20 percent)
slopes that often are north- to south- or southeast-facing [38,70].

Common associates not mentioned in Distribution and Occurrence are Rocky
Mountain maple (Acer glabrum), thinleaf mountain alder (Alnus incana
ssp. tenuifolia), wax currant (Ribes cereum), Utah honeysuckle (Lonicera
utahensis), Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), Saskatoon serviceberry
(Amelanchier alnifolia), and common juniper (Juniperus communis)
[3,37,70,88]. Other associated species are hairy goldenaster
(Chrysopsis villosa), Fendler meadowrue (Thalictrum fendleria), Arizona
fescue (Festuca arizonica), bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis
canadensis), and field horsetail (Equisetum arvense) [3,37,115,128].
  • 1. Alexander, Billy G., Jr.; Fitzhugh, E. Lee; Ronco, Frank, Jr.; Ludwig, John A. 1987. A classification of forest habitat types of the northern portion of the Cibola National Forest, New Mexico. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-143. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 35 p. [4207]
  • 3. Alexander, Robert R.; Ronco, Frank, Jr. 1987. Classification of the forest vegetation on the National Forests of Arizona and New Mexico. Res. Note RM-469. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 10 p. [3515]
  • 15. Buchanan, Hayle. 1960. The plant ecology of Bryce Canyon National Park. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah. 136 p. Thesis. [3364]
  • 26. DeVelice, Robert L.; Ludwig, John A. 1983. Climax forest series of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. In: Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region: 45-53. [779]
  • 37. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1985. Silvical characteristics of blue spruce. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-117. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 19 p. [7478]
  • 38. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1990. Picea pungens Engelm. blue spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 238-249. [13387]
  • 60. Hess, Karl; Alexander, Robert R. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in central Colorado: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-266. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 48 p. [1141]
  • 61. Hess, Karl; Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Grassland, shrubland, and forestland habitat types of the White River-Arapaho National Forest. Final Report. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 335 p. [1142]
  • 65. Johnson, Carl M. 1970. Common native trees of Utah. Special Report 22. Logan, UT: Utah State University, College of Natural Resources, Agricultural Experiment Station. 109 p. [9785]
  • 70. Komarkova, Vera; Alexander, Robert R.; Johnston, Barry C. 1988. Forest vegetation of the Gunnison and parts of the Uncompahgre National Forests: a preliminary habitat type classification. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-163. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 65 p. [5798]
  • 74. Langenheim, Jean H. 1962. Vegetation and environmental patterns in the Crested Butte Area, Gunnison County, Colorado. Ecological Monographs. 32(3): 249-285. [18480]
  • 75. Lanner, Ronald M. 1983. Trees of the Great Basin: A natural history. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. 215 p. [1401]
  • 84. Minckley, W. L.; Brown, David E. 1982. Wetlands. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 223-287. [8898]
  • 85. Moir, W. H. 1983. A series vegetation classification for Region 3. In: Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region: 91-95. [1672]
  • 88. Mueggler, Walter F.; Campbell, Robert B., Jr. 1986. Aspen community types of Utah. Res. Pap. INT-362. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 69 p. [1714]
  • 92. Majak, Walter; Engelsjord, Michael. 1988. Levels of a neurotoxic alkaloid in a species of low larkspur. Journal of Range Management. 41(3): 224-226. [5233]
  • 104. Sargent, Charles Sprague. 1933. Manual of the trees of North American (exclusive of Mexico). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 910 p. [20907]
  • 110. Steele, Robert; Pfister, Robert D. 1991. Western-montane plant communities and forest ecosystem perspectives. In: Harvey, Alan E.; Neuenschwander, Leon F., compilers. Proceedings--management and productivity of western-montane forest soils; 1990 April 10-12; Boise, ID. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-280. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 20-28. [15965]
  • 115. Szaro, Robert C. 1989. Riparian forest and scrubland community types of Arizona and New Mexico. Desert Plants. 9(3-4): 70-138. [604]
  • 116. Szaro, Robert C. 1990. Southwestern riparian plant communities: site characteristics, tree species distributions, and size-class structures. Forest Ecology and Management. 33/34: 315-334. [10031]
  • 128. Youngblood, Andrew P.; Mauk, Ronald L. 1985. Coniferous forest habitat types of central and southern Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-187. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 89 p. [2684]

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the terms: codominant, series

Blue spruce occurs as dominant or codominant in small stands or as
scattered individuals. In riparian settings, blue spruce is codominant
with cottonwoods such as narrowleaf cottonwood (Populus angustifolia) or
balsam poplar (P. balsamifera) [7,85,117]. Blue spruce is more
important in habitat type series of the central Rocky Mountains. Blue
spruce series are restricted to cool, moist areas thoughout the
southwestern mixed-conifer forests [1,26,120]. Common codominants are
Engelmann spruce, white fir (Abies concolor), and Douglas-fir
(Pseudotsuga menziesii) [3,26,88].

Blue spruce is often a long-lived seral species. It is seral in white
fir, corkbark fir (Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica), or fir phases of
Engelmann spruce habitat types [3,39]. It infrequently occurs in the
spruce-fir subalpine zone [31].

Some of the many publications that list blue spruce as an indicator or
dominant in habitat or community types are:

(1) Classification of the forest vegetation on the National Forests of
Arizona and New Mexico [3]
(2) Classification of riparian vegetation of the montane and subalpine
zones in western Colorado [7]
(3) Aspen community types of Utah [88]
(4) A physical and biological characterization of riparian habitat and
its importance to wildlife in Wyoming [91].
  • 1. Alexander, Billy G., Jr.; Fitzhugh, E. Lee; Ronco, Frank, Jr.; Ludwig, John A. 1987. A classification of forest habitat types of the northern portion of the Cibola National Forest, New Mexico. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-143. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 35 p. [4207]
  • 3. Alexander, Robert R.; Ronco, Frank, Jr. 1987. Classification of the forest vegetation on the National Forests of Arizona and New Mexico. Res. Note RM-469. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 10 p. [3515]
  • 7. Baker, William L. 1989. Classification of the riparian vegetation of the montane and subalpine zones in western Colorado. The Great Basin Naturalist. 49(2): 214-228. [7985]
  • 26. DeVelice, Robert L.; Ludwig, John A. 1983. Climax forest series of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. In: Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region: 45-53. [779]
  • 31. Dye, A. J.; Moir, W. H. 1977. Spruce-fir forest at its southern distribution in the Rocky Mountains, New Mexico. The American Midland Naturalist. 97(1): 133-146. [7476]
  • 39. Fitzhugh, E. Lee; Moir, William H.; Ludwig, John A.; Ronco, Frank, Jr. 1987. Forest habitat types in the Apache, Gila, and part of the Cibola National Forests, Arizona and New Mexico. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-145. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 116 p. [4206]
  • 85. Moir, W. H. 1983. A series vegetation classification for Region 3. In: Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region: 91-95. [1672]
  • 88. Mueggler, Walter F.; Campbell, Robert B., Jr. 1986. Aspen community types of Utah. Res. Pap. INT-362. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 69 p. [1714]
  • 91. Olson, R. A.; Gerhart, W. A. 1982. A physical and biological characterization of riparian habitat and its importance to wildlife in Wyoming. Cheyenne, WY: Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 188 p. [6755]
  • 117. Szaro, Robert C.; Patton, David R. 1986. Riparian habitat classification in the southwestern United States. Transactions of the 51st North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference: 215-221. [3516]
  • 120. Twisselmann, E. C. 1967. A flora of Kern County, California. Wasmann Journal of Biology. 25: 1-395. [20388]

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir
210 Interior Douglas-fir
211 White fir
216 Blue spruce
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine
219 Limber pine
235 Cottonwood - willow
237 Interior ponderosa pine

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

K012 Douglas-fir forest,
K018 Pine - Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K020 Spruce - fir - Douglas-fir forest
K021 Southwestern spruce - fir forest
K022 Great Basin pine forest
K025 Alder - ash forest

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Soils and Topography

Basic information on soils and landforms needed for silvicultural  decisions for blue spruce is limited. Both soils and landforms are very  complex. Soils are young and vary widely in texture and physical and  chemical properties according to the bedrock from which they originate.  Glacial deposits, alluvium from streams, and material weathered in place  from country rock are predominant, however (2). The pH is 6.8 to 7.2,  neutral to slightly alkaline (21,62). The soils on which blue spruce grows  naturally are in the order Mollisols and, to a lesser extent, in the  orders Histosols and Inceptisols.

    Blue spruce is found on gentle upland and subirrigated slopes, in  well-watered tributary drainages, extending down intermittent streams, and  on lower northerly slopes. Sites on which blue spruce grows are more moist  than those of Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var.  scopulorum) and warmer than those of Engelmann spruce (Picea  engelmannii) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) (2,65). In  Utah, blue spruce is considered a pioneer tree species on wet soils (21).

    Blue spruce is characteristically found at elevations from 1830 to 2740  m (6,000 to 9,000 ft) in its northern range and from 2130 to 3050 m (7,000  to 10,000 ft) in its southern range (27,65).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Gilbert H. Fechner

Source: Silvics of North America

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Climate

Blue spruce grows in a climatic zone that is generally cool and humid,  with most of the annual precipitation occurring in the summer.

    Mean annual temperatures where blue spruce is most commonly found in  Colorado and the Southwest range from 3.9° to 6.1° C (39°  to 43° F), with a January mean of -3.9° to -2.8° C (25°  to 27° F) and a July mean of 13.9° to 15.0° C (57° to  59° F). Mean minimum January temperatures range from -11.1° to  8.9° C (12° to 16° F) and mean maximum July temperatures  range from 21.1° to 22.2° C (70° to 72° F). The  frost-free period from June to August is about 55 to 60 days (5,69).

    Average annual precipitation varies from 460 to 610 mm (18 to 24 in).  Winter is usually precipitation-deficient, with less than 20 percent of  the annual moisture falling from December through March. Fifty percent of  the annual precipitation is rain that falls during the growing season  (5,69).

    Although blue spruce grows best with abundant moisture, this species can  withstand drought better than any other spruce (36). It can also withstand  extremely low temperatures (-40° C; -40° F), and it is more  resistant to high insolation and frost damage than other associated  species.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Gilbert H. Fechner

Source: Silvics of North America

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Habitat & Distribution

Midmontane forests; 1800--3000m; Ariz., Colo., Idaho, N.Mex., Utah, Wyo.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Dispersal

Establishment

Blue spruce begins to produce seed at about 20 years; maximum seed production occurs between 50-150 years. Good cone years occur at intervals of 2-3 years. Seed germination is mostly confined to exposed mineral soil with side shade and overhead light, but natural reproduction is scanty, probably because the light seeds are prevented from coming into contact with mineral soil by the dense herbage, grass, or other ground-cover vegetation that is usually abundant in the habitat of the species. Seedling establishment is probably benefited by moisture availability and shading, which prolong snow and soil moisture in late spring.

Blue spruce is a slow-growing tree and some individuals have been reported to live for more than 600 years. Reproduction by layering has not been reported for this species.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Associations

Foodplant / false gall
crowded pseudothecium of Cucurbitaria piceae causes swelling of characteristically twisted, swollen bud of Picea pungens Glauca group
Remarks: season: 6-12

Foodplant / sap sucker
Elatobium abietinum sucks sap of live, yellowed then shed leaf of Picea pungens Glauca group
Remarks: season: (1-)3-5(-12)
Other: major host/prey

Plant / associate
clustered, superficial pycnidium of Megaloseptoria coelomycetous anamorph of Megaloseptoria mirabilis is associated with Gemmamyces infected bud of Picea pungens Glauca group

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / saprobe
superficial, clustered, hypophyllous pycnidium of Rhizosphaera coelomycetous anamorph of Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii is saprobic on dead needle of Picea pungens argentea
Remarks: season: late winter to early spring
Other: major host/prey

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / false gall
crowded pseudothecium of Cucurbitaria piceae causes swelling of characteristically twisted, swollen bud of Picea pungens
Remarks: season: 6-12

Plant / associate
clustered, superficial pycnidium of Megaloseptoria coelomycetous anamorph of Megaloseptoria mirabilis is associated with Gemmamyces infected bud of Picea pungens

Foodplant / saprobe
superficial, clustered, hypophyllous pycnidium of Rhizosphaera coelomycetous anamorph of Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii is saprobic on dead needle of Picea pungens
Remarks: season: late winter to early spring
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent, shortly stalked apothecium of Tryblidiopsis pinastri is saprobic on dead, attached branch of Picea pungens
Remarks: season: 5-7

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Associated Forest Cover

Blue spruce is a species of the montane zone in the central and southern  Rocky Mountains, where it is the principal species of the Blue Spruce  forest cover type (Society of American Foresters Type 216) (27). Blue  spruce is also named as a minor associate in four other types: Engelmann  Spruce-Subalpine Fir (Type 206), Interior Douglas-Fir (Type 210),  Cottonwood-Willow (Type 235), and Interior Ponderosa Pine (Type 237).

    Over the bulk of its range, blue spruce is most frequently associated  with Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glaucaand Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine and with white fir (Abies  concolor) on mesic sites in the central Rocky Mountains. Blue spruce  is seldom found in large numbers, but on streamside sites it is often the  only coniferous species present.

    Hardwoods associated with blue spruce are most commonly narrowleaf  cottonwood (Populus angustifolia), quaking aspen (P.  tremuloides), and occasionally balsam poplar (P. balsamifera).  Smaller streamside trees and common shrub associates are water birch  (Betula occidentalis), mountain alder (Alnus tenuifolia), shrubby  cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), common snowberry (Symphoricarpos  albus), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), and species of willow  (Salix).

    On north-facing slopes, blue spruce, rarely found more than 9 to 12 m  (30 to 40 ft) above the drainage bottoms, mixed with Douglas-fir or  lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) (24). At  higher elevations, above 2590 m (8,500 ft), blue spruce may mingle with  Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and quaking aspen on moist sites, or  lodgepole pine on drier sites (49).

    In its southern range (southwestern Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico)  blue spruce is part of the widespread mixed conifer forest as a component  of several diverse habitat types constituting topoedaphic climaxes in  stream bottoms and meadow borders. In general, blue spruce dominates  habitats that are too warm for Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir and that  are wetter than those typically occupied by ponderosa pine. Shrub  associates include Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum), western  serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), common juniper (Juniperus  communis), and Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), as well as  alders and willows on the moister sites (50,65).

    In its northern range (northern Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana), blue  spruce is found only in scattered locations under established stands of  narrowleaf cottonwood and among scattered ponderosa pine, with Engelmann  spruce and white spruce (Picea glauca) associated with the species  in the extreme north (64,84).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Gilbert H. Fechner

Source: Silvics of North America

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Diseases and Parasites

Damaging Agents

Several insects are known to attack developing  cones and seeds of blue spruce, but damage caused by insects is not heavy  (55). The spruce seed chalcid (Megastigmus piceae) is found  throughout the range of the host. Larvae of the spruce seed moth (Laspeyresia  youngana) and the cone cochylid (Henricus fuscodorsana) bore  through cone scales near the axis of the cones, destroying both scales and  up to 10 percent of the seeds. Larvae of the spruce coneworm (Dioryctria  reniculelloides) mine young cones in addition to feeding on tender  terminal growth and its foliage (34,45,54).

    In addition to those attacking developing cones and seeds, other insects  occasionally damage blue spruce (34). The larvae of the western spruce  budworm (Choristoneura occidentalis) feed on old needles in late  April, then mine developing buds and defoliate new tree growth (59).  Heavy, repeated attacks kill the tree.

    Less serious damage can be caused by the spruce needle miner (Taniva  abolineana), and another needle miner, Coleotechnites piceaella  (34,43,54). The Cooley spruce gall aphid (Adelges cooleyi) and  the pine leaf aphids (Pineus pinifoliae and Pineus similiscause the formation of cone-shaped galls. The former may be of  consequence on seedlings and saplings.

    Other insects that attack blue spruce are the green spruce aphid, Cinara  fornacula, and the related Cinara coloradensis, which feed on  terminal twigs, as does the white pine weevil (Pissodes strobi). Twig  beetles, Pityophthorus spp., may attack injured trees. Dendroctonus  rufipennis, the spruce beetle, is also found on blue spruce. Ips  pilifrons, an engraver beetle which attacks recently downed trees, may  deprive the spruce beetle of favorable breeding places, thereby reducing  the threat of a spruce beetle outbreak (34,72). Secondary insects are Dryocoetes  affaber and the four-eyed spruce beetle (Polygraphus rufipennis).  Ambrosia beetles, Gnathotrichus sulcatus, and Trypodendron  bivattatum, and the golden buprestid (Buprestis aurulenta), a  flatheaded borer, attack the wood.

    The rust Chrysomyxa pirolata infects the cones of blue spruce.  Seed production is not greatly affected by this disease, however, although  malformation of the cones may interfere with seed dispersal (67). Seed  viability in rust-infected cones may be reduced, but seeds are not totally  destroyed.

    A variety of diseases also attack seedlings, leaves, stems, and roots of  blue spruce. Damping-off, caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi, kills  new seedlings, as does the cylindrocladium root rot, caused by Cylindrocladium  scoparium (11,48). Nematodes may reduce root growth of seedlings in  nurseries (30,37). Low seedling vigor is also caused by the root lesion  nematode, Pratylenchus penetrans (48), and snow molds may cause  nursery losses during seasons of heavy snow (82).

    Leucocytospora kunzei (Syn.: Cytospora kunzei) is  widespread in northeastern United States and may cause cankers on  one-fourth to one-half of the branches of blue spruce. Although usually  not fatal, branch loss dramatically reduces the aesthetic value of  landscape trees (35,73). Phomopsis occulta causes a tip blight on  blue spruce; it is characterized by downward curling and necrosis of  expanding shoots, where stem cankers and sap exudate commonly occur (78).  Western spruce dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium microcarpum) causes  mortality in infected stands two to five times greater than in healthy  stands, and heavily infected trees may show a 10-year volume loss of up to  40 percent (61).

    Three species of Chrysomyxa cause needle rusts and moderate  amounts of shedding of new needles on blue spruce. Another needle cast  fungus, Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii, damages Christmas tree  plantations of blue spruce in the Midwest and the East. Serious damage is  not associated with natural stands of this species although the disease  was first reported on blue spruce in its native range in Arizona  (44,68,89). Chrysomyxa arctostaphyli causes the perennial yellow  witches' broom on blue spruce branches; Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, the  common kinnikinnik, serves as host of stage 3 of the fungus (70). Armillaria  mellea and Inonotus tomentosus both cause root rot, and Phellinus  pini, Fomitopsis pinicola, Climacocystis borealis' and Polyporus  caesius are common heart rots (48).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Gilbert H. Fechner

Source: Silvics of North America

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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: fuel, prescribed fire

Fire is less frequent in montane mixed-conifer forests at lower
elevations where Douglas-fir is dominant with blue spruce than in
ponderosa pine types. Quaking aspen is seral and present because of
fire in these forests. Prescribed fire here would increase habitat and
browse for wildlife [108].

Blue spruce is not recommended for fire shelterbelts based on studies in
Victoria, Australia. Fuel ladders form from persistent dead low
branches [109].

Fuel prediction is difficult because of the large variation in natural
fuel loadings in the forests where blue spruce occurs [101]. Therefore,
Sackett [102] determined average squared diameters and specific
gravities of blue spruce and seven other conifer species in Arizona and
New Mexico. This established weight and volume of fuels using planar
intersect method. Greatest accumulations on the mixed-conifer forest
floor come from fermentation and humus layers [43]. One fuel loading
estimate was an average of 44 tons per acre (98 t/ha) [128].
  • 43. Ffolliott, Peter F.; Larson, Frederic K.; Thill, Ronald E. 1977. Some characteristics of Arizona's mixed conifer forest floor. Res. Note RM-342. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 4 p. [8172]
  • 101. Sackett, Stephen S. 1979. Natural fuel loadings in ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests of the Southwest. Res. Pap. RM-213. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 10 p. [5665]
  • 102. Sackett, Stephen S. 1980. Woody fuel particle size and specific gravity of southwestern tree species. Res. Note RM-389. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 4 p. [13258]
  • 108. Severson, Kieth E.; Rinne, John N. 1990. Increasing habitat diversity in Southwestern forests and woodlands via prescribed fire. In: Krammes, J. S., technical coordinator. Effects of fire management of southwestern natural resources: Proceedings of the symposium; 1988 November 15-17; Tucson, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-191. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 94-104. [11277]
  • 109. Simpfendorfer, K. J. 1989. Trees, farms and fires. Land and Forests Bulletin No. 30. Victoria, Australia: Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Lands and Forests Division. 55 p. [10649]
  • 128. Youngblood, Andrew P.; Mauk, Ronald L. 1985. Coniferous forest habitat types of central and southern Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-187. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 89 p. [2684]

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Plant Response to Fire

Blue spruce does not sprout after fire [109]. Rates of establishment
will vary depending on proximity of seed trees and moisture. Seed must
be transported from off-site. Blue spruce will establish by
wind-dispersed seed that readily germinates on the mineral soil exposed
by fire. Small mammals and birds may also carry cones or seeds into a
burn.
  • 109. Simpfendorfer, K. J. 1989. Trees, farms and fires. Land and Forests Bulletin No. 30. Victoria, Australia: Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Lands and Forests Division. 55 p. [10649]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

More info for the term: severity

Fire kills blue spruce. Low severity fires will kill saplings and
seedlings [2]. Slow burning of fine fuels will kill the shallow roots
of blue spruce [14].
  • 2. Alexander, Robert R. 1974. Silviculture of central and southern Rocky Mountain forests: a summary of the status of our knowledge by timber types. Res. Pap. RM-120. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 36 p. [15586]
  • 14. Bradley, Anne F.; Noste, Nonan V.; Fischer, William C. 1991. Fire ecology of forests and woodlands in Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-287. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 128 p. [18211]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the terms: root crown, secondary colonizer

Tree without adventitious-bud root crown
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: fire frequency, fire suppression, frequency

Blue spruce is easily killed by fire [67,126]. It has thin bark and
shallow roots which make it susceptible to hot surface fires [14]. Blue
spruce is slow to self-prune lower branches; therefore, surface fires
can crown [19]. Blue spruce foliage has moderately volatile oils [109].
Crowns are dense and highly flammable [106,109]. However, surviving
blue spruce remain windfirm in stands opened by fire [14].

In riparian areas where blue spruce occurs, intervals between fires are
about 350 to 400 years. Severe fires occur infrequently, and succession
back to the original community is often relatively rapid (15 to 35
years). Depending on the site, blue spruce may be the dominant seral
tree [19].

Successive fires may prevent blue spruce from dominance because it is
fire intolerant. Historical fire frequency in mixed-conifer forests was
about 22 years, based on fire-scarred trees in the White Mountains of
Arizona [27]. Fire suppression during the past 100 years has made the
mixed-conifer forest in which blue spruce occurs more susceptible to
fire; however, blue spruce may be dominant in some areas because of the
longer fire-free intervals.
  • 14. Bradley, Anne F.; Noste, Nonan V.; Fischer, William C. 1991. Fire ecology of forests and woodlands in Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-287. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 128 p. [18211]
  • 19. Crane, Marilyn F. 1982. Fire ecology of Rocky Mountain Region forest habitat types. Final Report Contract No. 43-83X9-1-884. Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Region 1. 272 p. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. [5292]
  • 27. Dieterich, John H. 1983. Fire history of southwestern mixed conifer: a case study. Forest Ecology. 6: 13-31. [5242]
  • 67. Jones, John R. 1974. Silviculture of southwestern mixed conifers and aspen: The status of our knowledge. Res. Pap. RM-122. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agricutlure, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 44 p. [16081]
  • 106. Schmidt, Wyman C.; Larson, Milo. 1989. Silviculture of western inland conifers. In: Burns, Russell M., compiler. The scientific basis for silvicultural and management decisions in the National Forest System. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-55. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 40-58. [10245]
  • 109. Simpfendorfer, K. J. 1989. Trees, farms and fires. Land and Forests Bulletin No. 30. Victoria, Australia: Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Lands and Forests Division. 55 p. [10649]
  • 126. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: climax

Facultative Seral Species

Blue spruce occurs in various seral stages from pioneer to climax. Its
successional status depends on location and associated species [38].

Blue spruce is a pioneer species in riparian communities that are
subject to periodic disturbances, such as scouring and flooding
[8,38,116]. It is present in all size classes along the riparian
systems and on the lower slopes in the southwestern United States, where
it may be a topoedaphic climax species [37].

Blue spruce is an intermediate to late, long-lived seral or climax
species in montane or subalpine zones [6,38,106]. Blue spruce is
intermediate in shade tolerance [38,111]. It may be seral to or climax
with any of the conifer species in the mixed-conifer forests [30,37].
Quaking aspen and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) can be seral to blue
spruce [87].
  • 6. Baker, William L. 1988. Size-class structure of contiguous riparian woodlands along a Rocky Mountain river. Physical Geography. 9(1): 1-14. [9269]
  • 8. Baker, William L. 1990. Climatic and hydrologic effects on the regeneration of Populus angustifolia James along the Animas River, Colorado. Journal of Biogeography. 17(1): 59-73. [13236]
  • 30. Dixon, Helen. 1935. Ecological studies on the high plateaus of Utah. Botanical Gazette. 97: 272-320. [15672]
  • 37. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1985. Silvical characteristics of blue spruce. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-117. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 19 p. [7478]
  • 38. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1990. Picea pungens Engelm. blue spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 238-249. [13387]
  • 106. Schmidt, Wyman C.; Larson, Milo. 1989. Silviculture of western inland conifers. In: Burns, Russell M., compiler. The scientific basis for silvicultural and management decisions in the National Forest System. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-55. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 40-58. [10245]
  • 111. Stein, Steven J. 1988. Explanations of the imbalanced age structure and scattered distribution of ponderosa pine within a high-elevation mixed conifer forest. Forest Ecology and Management. 25: 139-153. [6236]
  • 116. Szaro, Robert C. 1990. Southwestern riparian plant communities: site characteristics, tree species distributions, and size-class structures. Forest Ecology and Management. 33/34: 315-334. [10031]
  • 87. Mueggler, Walter F. 1987. Status of aspen woodlands in the West. In: Pendleton, Beth Giron,, ed. Proceedings of the western raptor management symposium and workshop; 1987 October 26-28; Boise, ID. Scientific and Technical Series No. 12. [Place of publication unknown]. National Wildlife Federation: 32-37. [19146]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: natural, tree

Blue spruce reproduces sexually. Natural vegetative reproduction does
not occur, although epicormic shoots sometimes sprout on the trunks
[38].

Seed production begins at about 20 years and peaks at 50 to 150 years
[38,122]. Blue spruce is a good to prolific seed producer, producing
full cone crops every 2 to 3 years [32,38,122]. Cones mature in August
of the first year and have 85 to 195 seeds per cone [37]. Seeds are
wind disseminated, falling within 300 feet (90 m) of the upwind timber
edge [38].

Most germination occurs on exposed mineral soil; however, seeds
germinate on a variety of substrates [37]. Natural germination rates
usually are low; however, one study reported 80 percent germination
[28,38]. Seeds germinate without stratification under a wide range of
temperature and light conditions [38,103]. Blue spruce seedlings will
establish beneath parent or other conifer canopies if understory
vegetation is lacking or sparse [71].

Overall tree growth is slow [65]. In a nursery, blue spruce were 19.1
to 23.3 inches (48.5 to 59.2 cm) tall after 5 years [38]. Seedlings are
susceptible to frost heaving and may be susceptible to drought due to
shallow roots [2,66]. Blue spruce transplanted into the ponderosa pine
(Pinus ponderosa) zone in the southern Rocky Mountains all died due to
drought conditions [21]. Blue spruce was collected throughout its range
and grown in a Michigan nursery. Growth rates slightly decreased as
latitude of origin increased [13]. In a study in North Dakota, 73.6
percent of all blue spruce roots were in the top 2 feet (0.61 m) of the
Fargo clay soil [127]. Despite its shallow roots, blue spruce is
windfirm [122].
  • 2. Alexander, Robert R. 1974. Silviculture of central and southern Rocky Mountain forests: a summary of the status of our knowledge by timber types. Res. Pap. RM-120. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 36 p. [15586]
  • 13. Bongarten, B. C.; Hanover, J. W. 1986. Provenance variation in blue spruce (Picea pungens) at eight locations in the northern United States and Canada. Silvae Genetica. 35(2-3): 67-74. [9836]
  • 21. Daubenmire, R. F. 1943. Soil temperature versus drought as a factor determining lower altitudinal limits of trees in the Rocky Mountains. Botanical Gazette. 105(1): 1-13. [12949]
  • 28. Dirr, Michael A.; Heuser, Charles W., Jr. 1987. The reference manual of woody plant propagation: From seed to tissue culture. Athens, GA: Varsity Press, Inc. 239 p. [16999]
  • 32. Edwards, D. G. W. 1986. Cone prediction, collection, and processing. In: Shearer, Raymond C., compiler. Proceedings--conifer tree seed in the Inland Mountain West symposium; 1985 August 5-6; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-203. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 78-102. [12784]
  • 37. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1985. Silvical characteristics of blue spruce. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-117. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 19 p. [7478]
  • 38. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1990. Picea pungens Engelm. blue spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 238-249. [13387]
  • 65. Johnson, Carl M. 1970. Common native trees of Utah. Special Report 22. Logan, UT: Utah State University, College of Natural Resources, Agricultural Experiment Station. 109 p. [9785]
  • 66. Jones, John R. 1974. A spot seeding trial with southwestern white pine and blue spruce. Res. Note RM-265. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Statin. 6 p. [20644]
  • 71. Krauch, Hermann. 1956. Management of Douglas-fir timberland in the Southwest. Station Paper No. 21. Fort Collins, CO: U.S Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 59 p. [8219]
  • 103. Safford, L. O. 1974. Picea A. Dietr. spruce. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 587-597. [7728]
  • 122. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 127. Yeager, A. F. 1935. Root systems of certain trees and shrubs grown on prairie soils. Journal of Agricultural Research. 51(12): 1085-1092. [3748]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

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Phanerophyte

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Life Form

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Tree

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Reaction to Competition

Blue spruce is classed as intermediate  in tolerance of shade, the middle of five tolerance categories for western  conifers. It is less tolerant than subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, and  white fir; it is similar in tolerance to, or slightly more tolerant than,  Douglas-fir; it is more tolerant than southwestern white pine, ponderosa  pine, lodgepole pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, quaking aspen, or its other  moist-site hardwood associates (4,27,52,62).

    On cool sites, a dense or moderately dense canopy favors regeneration of  subalpine fir, blue spruce, white fir, and Engelmann spruce, to the  exclusion of Douglas-fir. On warm sites, an open canopy favors ponderosa  pine, whereas a moderate canopy favors Douglas-fir (92).

    Blue spruce occurs in various seral stages, from pioneer to climax, in  32 currently recognized habitat types (28). The exact successional status  depends on the location within its geographic range and on its immediate  associates. For example, in the Southwest, blue spruce represents a  topo-edaphic climax, one in which environmental factors compensate for one  another (17); here it reproduces and is present in all sizes, along stream  banks, in well-watered tributaries, on gentle lower slopes, and in forest  borders of grassy meadows. On these sites, ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir  may be long-lived seral species, white fir and southwestern white pine may  occur as minor seral species, and subalpine fir may be of accidental  occurrence (58,65). Blue spruce may also form climax stands with Engelmann  spruce on slopes and in drainages at higher elevations and with  Douglas-fir and white fir (1) on lower slopes and north aspects at lower  elevations (65). Blue spruce may be a minor seral species in white fir-  and subalpine fir-dominated forests on cooler sites (58), and it may  constitute a pioneer species on wet sites (21).

    In Utah, blue spruce is a climax species in three distinct environments:  gentle to steep mountain slopes, floodplains and valley bottoms at lower  elevations, and montane sites on alluvium or aqueaceous north-aspect  deposits (23). Almost exclusively, sites that support climax stands of  blue spruce have parent materials of limestone or calcareous sandstone.  Thus, blue spruce probably constitutes an edaphic climax on these sites  (62,71). On Utah sites, quaking aspen is the prinicipal seral species,  except in the Uinta Mountains, where the seral role is assumed by  lodgepole pine. At the higher altitudes in Utah, blue spruce becomes a  minor seral species to subalpine fir (71).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Gilbert H. Fechner

Source: Silvics of North America

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Rooting Habit

Young seedlings of blue spruce are shallow  rooted, with roots penetrating the soil only about 6.4 cm. (2.5 in) during  the first year (50). Although blue spruce tissue is not damaged much by  freezing, seedling losses can result from frost heaving. Shade in late  spring and early fall minimizes such frost-heaving losses (2,69).

    Even in mature trees, the root system of blue spruce is relatively  shallow, compared to that of Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine, adapting it  to the moist site on which it usually grows. In spite of the shallow root  system, blue spruce is decidedly windfirm. (36).

    Pruning roots of blue spruce 5 years before transplanting doubles the  total root surface area of 2-meter-tall trees at transplanting time. It  also increases the concentration of the root system within the dripline  from 40 to 60 percent, an advantage in landscape plantings (90).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

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Reproductive buds of blue spruce form on shoots of the previous year
[103]. Pollen is shed from April to June, depending on altitude. Cones
mature during August or September of their first year; seeds disperse in
fall and winter [37,103]. Some cones drop the first winter; however,
most are retained 2 to 3 years [37]. Seeds germinate in the spring or
summer after dispersal [38].
  • 37. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1985. Silvical characteristics of blue spruce. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-117. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 19 p. [7478]
  • 38. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1990. Picea pungens Engelm. blue spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 238-249. [13387]
  • 103. Safford, L. O. 1974. Picea A. Dietr. spruce. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 587-597. [7728]

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Reproduction

Vegetative Reproduction

Natural vegetative reproduction of blue  spruce has not been reported. The species does not sprout from the stump  or root, but the development of epicormic branches on the trunk is common.  Grafting and air-layering have been practiced successfully for many years  to perpetuate desired horticultural varieties (32,60,63, 74,91). Success  has also been achieved through the rooting of hardwood or greenwood stem  cuttings, especially in sand-peat-soil media, or hydroponically   (56,79,81,93).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Gilbert H. Fechner

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Seedling Development

Seeds of blue spruce germinate on a  variety of media, although natural reproduction is mostly confined to  exposed mineral soil with side shade and overhead light in the vicinity of  seeding trees. Natural reproduction is scanty, probably because the  lightweight seed is prevented from coming into contact with mineral soil  by the dense herbage, grass, or other ground-cover vegetation that is  usually abundant in the habitat of the species (84).

    Seeds of blue spruce were once thought to show embryo dormancy. It is  now known, however, that blue spruce seeds germinate promptly and  completely without prior stratification, under a wide range of  temperatures, with or without light (46). Germination is epigeal (77).

    In most parts of the blue spruce range natural germination of seed takes  place in the spring or summer following dispersal and is dependent on  adequate precipitation (51).

    Spring and early summer drought periods occur regularly in the  Southwest. Although soils of the mixed conifer forest are wet at the end  of winter from melting snows, these drought periods during the growing  season create soil moisture deficits that are critical to initial seedling  survival. Fall moisture deficits common over the remainder of the range  are less limiting to seedling establishment and usually do not kill  seedlings established for 2 years or more except on severely affected  sites (2,52).

    Blue spruce seedlings are more sensitive to day temperatures between 13°  and 31° C (55° and 88° F) than to night temperatures  between 7° and 25° C (45° and 77° F) (86).

    Under greenhouse conditions, blue spruce seedlings are affected by  supplemental light. They grow continuously when exposed to photoperiods  exceeding 16 hours and enter dormancy within 4 weeks under photoperiods of  12 hours or less. Dormancy is prevented under 12-hour photoperiods by  2-hour light breaks of red light (1.70 µw/cm² @ 650 nm) or high  intensity white light (2,164.29 µw/cm² @ 400 to 800 nm) given in  the middle of the 12-hour night (94), or by one-minute light breaks every  30 minutes throughout the night (85).

    The establishment of blue spruce seedlings under natural conditions is  probably benefited by moisture availability and shading, which prolong  snow and soil moisture in late spring.

    Early growth of blue spruce seedlings is very slow. In a Michigan  nursery study, the tallest of 50 populations averaged 15.7 cm (6.2 in) at  2 years (40). In North Dakota, the tallest of seven sources was 58.4 cm  (23.0 in), 5 years after outplanting (18). Similarly, in a plantation in  the southern range, trees were 48.5 to 59.2 cm (19.1 to 23.3 in) tall  after five growing seasons (53).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Gilbert H. Fechner

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Seed Production and Dissemination

Blue spruce is generally  considered to be from good to prolific in seed production, yielding full  crops of cones every 2 or 3 years (77,84). Some intermediate years  are complete failures (24). Seed production begins at  approximately 20 years, and optimum seed-bearing age is reached between 50  and 150 years (88). Cones mature in August of the first year; seed  shed begins from early to late September, depending on altitude, and  continues into the winter (26,77). The seed is wind disseminated, seedfall  diminishing rapidly as distance from the source increases; most seeds fall  within 90 m (300 ft) of the upwind timber edge (2).

    It is unlikely that heavy cone crops will occur in successive years on a  single blue spruce tree, because the female strobili occupy terminal  positions on lateral branchlets. Such terminal positions are at a minimum  in the year following one of high seed production, because once a  strobilus is differentiated from an apical meristem, only the strobilus  develops at that position during the following growing season. If a whorl  of new axillary buds is produced on the branchlet at the base of the  developing cone, these buds ordinarily produce vegetative shoots for one  season before female strobili are again differentiated. Thus, although  blue spruce cones occasionally occupy sessile, axillary positions, the  likelihood of heavy seed crops occurring more frequently than every 2  years is very remote (24).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Flowering and Fruiting

Blue spruce is monoecious. Male strobili  develop throughout the living crown of the tree, although they are usually  more frequent in the upper one-half of the crown. They commonly develop in  whorls of three to five at the base of the current vegetative growth, or  singly in subterminal positions (25). Female strobili develop in  the upper 10 to 25 percent of the live crown of mature trees. They usually  occupy terminal positions on lateral branchlets.

    Most male strobili of blue spruce are rose red when they emerge from the  buds, but on occasional trees they appear yellowish-green. A single male  strobilus, containing 100 sporophylls, may produce about 370,000 pollen  grains. The female strobili consist of 175 to 225 scales and thus have a  potential to produce 350 to 450 seeds per cone. Pollen is shed in May or  June, depending upon altitude.

    For a short period of time following emergence from the bud, the scales  of the female strobili are a pale greenish color. As peak receptivity is  reached, however, the scales of the strobili on most trees become red and  are reflexed 90 degrees or more toward the base of the strobilus, which  assumes an erect position on the twig. Occasional trees produce  yellowish-green strobili. Approximately 2 weeks following initial  receptivity, the female strobilus moves from this erect position to about  45 degrees above horizontal. In another week, 50 percent of the cones on a  tree are 45 degrees below horizontal to pendent. During the fourth week,  all cones become pendent and reach their full size (24,26,28).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Gilbert H. Fechner

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Growth

Growth and Yield

Blue spruce is apparently a long-lived tree,  surviving up to 600 years or more. Diameter growth is slow; trees 10 to 13  cm (4 to 5 in) in d.b.h. may be 125 to 135 years old; at 46 to 56 cm (18  to 22 in), they may be 275 to 350 years of age (84). The "1982  National Register of Big Trees" lists the largest blue spruce as  154.4 cm (60.8 in) in d.b.h. and 38.4 m (126 ft) tall, on the Gunnison  National Forest, CO.

    Few growth and yield data are available for blue spruce. In one study,  in a mixed conifer forest in east-central Arizona, blue spruce was found  to constitute a total of 0.7 m²/ha basal area (3.05 ft²/acre) of  a total of 40.8 m² (177.7 ft²). The 728-ha (1,800-acre) forest  consisted of Douglas-fir (31.4 percent), quaking aspen (15.9 percent),  white fir (14.5 percent), ponderosa pine (14.1 percent), Engelmann spruce  (13.5 percent), southwestern white pine (Pinus strobiformis) (5.6  percent), corkbark fir (Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica) (3.3  percent), and blue spruce (1.7 percent). In this study, the annual basal  area growth for blue spruce was found to be 2.9 percent, greater than that  of any other species except corkbark fir, which was 3.7 percent per year  (22). The total basal area growth for blue spruce, 0.008 m² (0.088 ft²)  per year, was distributed as shown in table 1.

    Table 1- Annual basal area growth for blue spruce in  east-central Arizona (22).           
D.b.h. class  Percent 
of stand 
  Incremental growth                m²/ha  ft²/acre      0.3 to 17.5 cm 
0.1 to 6.9 in 
  4  0.004   

 
  0.0      17.8 to 27.7 cm 
7.0 to 10.9 in 
  18  0.001   

 
  0.006      27.9 to 42.9 cm 
11.0 to 16.9 in 
  18  0.001 
   

 
  0.006      43.2 to 58.2 cm 
17.0 to 22.9 in 
  10  0.001   

 
  0.004      58.4 cm and larger 23.0 in and larger 
  5  -   

 
  0.002      Total  100  0.007  0.035
  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

Population Differences    In a study of seven blue spruce provenances from Arizona, Colorado,  Utah, and Wyoming, grown in North Dakota, 5-year survival varied from 22  percent for the Targee National Forest, WY, source to 96 percent for an  Ashley National Forest, UT, source (18). In the same study, height  differed significantly among the sources; the two sources from Ashley  National Forest represented the tallest (57.3 cm; 22.6 in) and the  shortest (37.5 cm; 14.8 in). No latitudinal or altitudinal pattern of  survival, growth, or frost resistance seemed apparent.

    In a Michigan nursery study of progenies from 50 populations collected  throughout its range, 2-year-old blue spruce seedlings from Colorado, New  Mexico, and Arizona grew more rapidly than those from Utah, Wyoming, or  Montana. The average heights of the 10 tallest populations ranged from  18.8 to 16.1 cm (7.4 to 6.3 in) (40).

    Variation in foliage color is apparently under strong genetic control  (15), although the mechanism of inheritance is not presently known.  Because there is no consistency in blue color from any one source, color  variation is a characteristic to expect with seed-produced trees (47).  Two-year-old progenies from Arizona and New Mexico seed sources show a  much higher incidence of "blueness" than those from other areas  (40). However, little or no difference has been detected between seedlings  with glaucous (bluish) or non-glaucous (greenish) needles in  photosynthetic rate, transpiration rate, and moisture retention (75).  These studies suggest that genetic variation in natural populations of  blue spruce does not conform to a clinal pattern. Rather, the pattern  appears to be ecotypic, with considerable stand-to-stand variation and  individual tree variation.

    Significant variation exists among populations in the concentration of  terpenes derived from cortical tissue. Five populations, each consisting  of 10 selected seed trees, differed significantly in the concentration of  each of eight monoterpenes in a Michigan study. Although the total  percentages of the eight monoterpenes were similar among the populations,  the Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming populations were distinct from the New  Mexico and Arizona populations due to percentages of specific  monoterpenes. For example, the average percentage of a-pinene  was 14.3 for the three northern populations and 8.5 for the two southern  ones, whereas b-phellandrene averaged 0.58  percent for the northern populations and 0.89 percent for the southern  populations (39).

    Large differences in monoterpene yield exist in xylem, bark, and needles  of individual blue spruce trees, and variation in terpene yield among  trees is significant. The concentration of the terpenes in the needles and  xylem varies with crown position, the yield increasing with tree height in  the xylem and decreasing with tree height in the needles. These yields are  correlated with the proportions of resin canals in the respective tissues  (66).

    Several investigators have reported different results in blue spruce  seedlings grown under accelerated greenhouse conditions (20,39,40,41). In  a recent study, height growth of 75 single-tree Colorado sources, grown  under accelerated greenhouse conditions, varied significantly among six  seed zones but not among families within a seed zone. Seed zone averages  ranged from 22.2 cm for the tallest to 14.2 cm for the shortest during the  140-day test period (20).

    In their reports of a rangewide provenance study of blue spruce  conducted in Michigan, investigators noted that the southern sources of  blue spruce did not grow as well under accelerated greenhouse conditions  as did the northern sources (6,8,41). In contrast, in the Colorado study,  southern Colorado sources generally outgrew the northern Colorado sources.

    It is interesting to note that in field plantations subsequently  established in several midwestern states and Quebec with their blue spruce  sources, the Michigan investigators observed a reversal of the variation  patterns that they had observed in the greenhouse. In the field  plantations, the southern sources outgrew the northern sources (9,10,87).  Thus, growth of the seedlings studied in Colorado in the greenhouse  followed much the same patterns as the seedlings that were grown outdoors  in the Michigan studies.

    In only a single study has the date of bud set been recorded in blue  spruce. Within latitudinal groups in Colorado, bud set varied with  elevation of the seedling seed source, the high-elevation sources setting  bud much sooner than the low-elevation sources (20). Some investigators  (6,87) have found no consistent pattern or date of bud break in the 400  widely distributed sources of blue spruce studied. And others (10) found  that bud break was variously related to longitude but not to elevation.  Yet the results of the Colorado study, based on relatively intensive  elevational sampling, show a relationship between latitude and elevation  of seed origin and the date of bud set.

    Thus, whereas research results support the notion that natural variation  of most parameters that have been studied in blue spruce conforms to a  discontinuous pattern geographically (18,20,39,40,87), variation in date  of bud set conforms to a local altitudinal clinal pattern (20).

    Hybrids    From studies of morphological features of blue spruce and Engelmann  spruce, it has been concluded that these two species do not hybridize in  nature, although no morphological character absolutely separates the two  (16). Considerable overlap in cone size has been found; Engelmann spruce  cones vary from 2.8 to 5.8 cm (1.1 to 2.3 in) and blue spruce cones vary  from 4.5 to 10.7 cm (1.8 to 4.2 in) in neighboring populations measured in  northern Colorado (33). Cone and seed characteristics are often found to  be indistinguishable (40).

    Controlled crosses between blue spruce and Engelmann spruce obtained up  to 2 percent sound seed set when Engelmann spruce was the female parent  (29). The reciprocal cross was also successful. Only occasional embryos  developed following crosses between the two species, but, more frequently,  reproductive failure occurred prior to embryo formation (57).

    Much overlap between blue spruce and Engelmann spruce in cortical  monoterpene content has also been observed, although species differences  in the quantity of several of the compounds are statistically significant.  Oleoresins of blue spruce contain higher levels of tricyclene, (a-pinene,  camphene, and bornyl acetate, whereas Engelmann spruce oleoresins contain  higher levels of b-pinene, 3-carene,  terpinolene, and several unknown compounds (80).

    These and other results (42) indicate that hybridization between blue  spruce and Engelmann spruce is possible. This might account for the  various intergrades between blue spruce, white spruce, and Engelmann  spruce that have been reported in Montana (83).

    Information on inheritance patterns for certain characteristics of blue  spruce, although somewhat inconclusive, is provided by results of half-sib  and full-sib progeny studies involving that species. For example, in a  Canadian study (13,14), inheritance of needle coloration was investigated  using such controlled crosses. A qualitative rating scale of one (green)  to four (silvery blue) was used for comparison. Although the proportion of  blue seedlings was not significantly related to the blue color ratings of  their open-pollinated parents, the needle-color ratings of 10-year progeny  were related to those of their self-pollinated parents (r = 0.83). One  selfed tree produced 94 percent blue progeny.

    As is true for certain other coniferous species, albinism in blue spruce  is apparently controlled by a single gene. The proportion of normal  (green) to albino seedlings derived from self-pollinated seeds of two  different trees produce a good fit to a 3:1 ratio, suggesting  heterozygosity for a simple lethal factor (12).

    In Michigan studies, hybrid progeny from crosses between white spruce  and blue spruce showed a slight, but nonsignificant, increase in  germination rate over the parental half-sib progeny, and at 42 weeks,  needle length was intermediate between those of the parental progeny.  Although the hybrid progeny as a group displayed intermediacy in 3-carene  biosynthesis ability between the two parents, individual-tree values  showed genetic segregation in the open-pollinated (half-sib) blue spruce  progeny and uniformity in the open-pollinated (half-sib) white spruce  progeny (42). Yet, the range of values for 3-carene biosynthesis ability  is controlled by a single pair of alleles, as had been shown for western  white pine (Pinus monticola) (38). However, when natural  populations of blue spruce were studied for this characteristic, allele  frequencies for the 3-carene gene did not conform to expected values in  Colorado and New Mexico populations, although they did conform to expected  single-gene frequencies in the Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming populations (39).  These apparent discrepancies could be artifacts of sample size or  other unknown factors.

    Whereas the initiation date of germination of hybrid seed has been found  to be intermediate between parental (half-sib) seed of blue spruce and  Engelmann spruce, cotyledon number, mean day of total germination, and  hypocotyl color tend to be similar to those of female parent (29).  That cotyledon number is under strong maternal control, as it also is  in white spruce (31), is supported by a recent study, in which  cotyledon number differed significantly (P = .001) between half-sib  Colorado families but not within those families (20).

    From studies of controlled crosses among white spruce, blue spruce, and  red spruce (Picea rubens), F2 progeny of  white spruce x blue spruce crosses were found to be much stunted in height  and in needle length (7). Further results of findings among these species  are summarized in table 3.

    Table 3- Summary of inheritance of various traits from  crosses among red, white, and blue spruces. Adapted from Bongarten and  Hanover, 1982 (7).          Spruce combination  Character response            (White x blue) x white (backcross)  - Similar to white spruce in all measured characters.              (White x blue) x blue (backcross)      - Similar to blue in 6-month, height, needle curvature,  and         3-carene  concentration.  - Similar to white in needle serrations.  - Intermediate in b-pinene  concentration              (White x blue) x red (trihybrid)         

  - Similar to red in needle serrations, limonene  concentration,      and needle curvature.  - Similar to white x red in needle color.  - Similar to white x blue in 3-carene and b-pinene     concentrations.              In summary, it would appear that for most needle, chemical synthesis,  and germination characteristics that have been studied in blue spruce, the  gene action is quantitative. Exceptions to this seem manifest in the  biosynthetic ability of 3-carene and in the production of albino  seedlings, which may be single-gene controlled, and cotyledon number,  hypocotyl color, and mean germination date, which may be under strong  maternal influence in that species.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Gilbert H. Fechner

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Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Picea pungens

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Picea pungens

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 10
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Farjon, A.

Reviewer/s
Thomas, P. & Stritch, L.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has a very large extent of occurrence and although subpopulations tend to be small and are often isolated, no overall decline is known to occur. It is therefore assessed as Least Concern.
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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

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Population

Population
In the SW states of Arizona and New Mexico, and in parts of Utah, the subpopulations tend to be small and isolated, but elsewhere they are more substantial, although individual trees can be scattered among other conifers or Aspen (Populus tremuloides). This is a natural consequence of climatic differences between the more arid SW USA and moister central Rocky Mountains.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
No specific threats have been identified for this species.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Blue Spruce is known from several protected areas throughout its range.
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Management considerations

More info for the terms: basal area, cover, layering, natural, seed tree, selection, series, tree

Silviculture: Blue spruce has an intermediate tolerance for single-tree
selection harvesting [55]. Single-tree selection and diameter-limit
harvest methods were compared on a Southwestern old-growth mixed-conifer
stand in which blue spruce occurred. The single-tree selection method
left the stand satisfactorily stocked with 54 percent damage to advance
regeneration. Diameter-limit method left the stand understocked with 71
percent loss of advance regeneration [51]. Conifer regeneration by
small patch clearcutting was also recommended for these forests [42,52].
Effective seeding distance to obtain adequate natural regeneration of
blue spruce is about 3 to 4 times the height of the tree [80]. Because
blue spruce is considered a late successional species, it is not
suitable as a seed tree in clearcuts [53,106]. Silvicultural practices
for mixed-conifer stands are reviewed in detail [67].

Blue spruce ranged from 2 to 28 inches (5.1-71.1 cm) d.b.h. with most
trees at 2 inches (5.1 cm) in stand inventories of virgin mixed-conifer
forest; no blue spruce died during the 5 years of monitoring. Initial
blue spruce volume was 360 board feet per acre; final volume was 391
board feet per acre. Average annual growth of blue spruce was less than
0.2 inch (0.5 cm) [50]. In east-central Arizona, blue spruce were 3.05
square feet per acre (0.7 sq m/ha) basal area in a total 177.7 square
feet per acre (40.8 sq m/ha) for the mixed-conifer forest. Blue spruce
annual basal growth of 2.9 percent was the highest growth rate for all
tree species present [33]. In blue spruce habitat series in central
Colorado, total basal areas ranged from 169 to 300 square feet per acre
(49-83 sq m/ha) with all size classes of blue spruce present [60,61].

Other Uses: In wet sites with well-developed soil, blue spruce timber
potential is high; however, the timber value may be low. Blue spruce is
often more valuable for wildlife habitat and food and for recreation
[70].

Blue spruce is a component of mixed-conifer forests that have been a
part of browse studies [41]. Equations exist for predicting forage
production [12,40,76]. Forage production estimates include hiding and
thermal cover for wildlife management. Since these mixed-conifer
clearcuts require 50 to 100 years to regenerate, clearcut areas are a
long-term forage resource for deer and elk [118]. Quaking aspen
(Populus tremuloides) is often associated with blue spruce on upland
sites. Treatment of conifers in these systems depends on whether aspen
is to be maintained for livestock forage or wildlife habitat [25].

Blue spruce is a part of mixed-conifer stands that are managed for
watershed [52]. Clearcuts in these forests increase water yield almost
in proportion to the area cleared [24].

Artificial vegetative propagation of blue spruce is possible using short
cuttings, grafting, and air layering [28,38,123]. Breeding commercial
stock has been successful; however, interspecific crosses rarely yield
viable hybrids [34,46,90,105]. Blue spruce pollen used in artificial
crosses is viable for almost 3 years when stored at cold temperatures
[36]. Methods for cone harvesting and seed extraction are discussed in
detail [32,103].

Blue spruce have been planted in a wide range of environments. It has
been a part of state nursery programs to stock oldfields in Ohio [93].
Blue spruce nursery stock is more drought resistant than other spruce
species, and it can withstand temperatures to -40 degrees Fahrenheit
(-40 deg C) [38]. It can tolerate some flooding. Forty percent of
3-year-old blue spruce seedlings survived 21 days under aerated,
submerged conditions; all died after 28 days [82].

Blue spruce was included in a 30-year shelterbelt project in the
northern Great Plains. Blue spruce was 13 feet (4 m) tall at 20 years
with 32 percent of the original trees surviving [49]. It has been
successfully used in shelterbelts in Montana, North Dakota, and South
Dakota [9,119]. Planting recommendations have been discussed in detail
[4,107].

Damaging Agents: Insects and disease reduce growth, viability, and
vigor of blue spruce [37,124]. Heart and root rots, cone rusts,
nematodes, snow molds, canker, and tip blight have an impact on blue
spruce [38,89]. Silvicultural methods that minimize pathologic and
insect problems are discussed in detail [2,45,106]. Calibrated
ecosystem models that correlate microclimate with blue spruce stand
information are useful for predicting the behavior of forest pathogens
[83]. Tree ring patterns of blue spruce have been used to construct
past occurrence of insect attacts [69].

Blue spruce is a host of western spruce budworm (Choristoneura
occidentalis); outbreaks and symptoms are discussed in detail [16,78].
Blue spruce is an infrequent host of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus
ponderosae) and spruce beetle (D. rufipennis), which kill other conifers
[5,62]. Trees surviving infestation are more susceptible to other
pathogens, insects, and windthrow [45,57].

Blue spruce is the principal host of western spruce dwarf mistletoe
(Arceuthobium microcarpum) and minor host of other dwarf mistletoe
species [58,59,124]. Infected blue spruce seedling mortality under a
heavily infested canopy was twice that of the control [79].
  • 2. Alexander, Robert R. 1974. Silviculture of central and southern Rocky Mountain forests: a summary of the status of our knowledge by timber types. Res. Pap. RM-120. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 36 p. [15586]
  • 4. Alspach, Lyle K. 1989. Dazomet use for seedbed fumigation at the PFRA Shelterbelt Centre, Indian Head, Saskatchewan. In: Landis, Thomas D., technical coordinator. Proceedings, Intermountain Forest Nursery Association; 1989 August 14-18; Bismarck, ND. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-184. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 40-42. [17052]
  • 5. Amman, Gene D.; Cole, Walter E. 1983. Mountain pine beetle dynamics in lodgepole pine forests. Part II. Population dynamics. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-145. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 59 p. [8315]
  • 9. Barnes, Thomas G.; Keyser, Emmett J., III; Linder, Raymond L. 1989. Survey of animal damage and feeding selectivity of rabbits in eastern South Dakota shelterbelts. In: Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Uresk, Daniel W.; Hamre, R. H., tech. coords. 9th Great Plains wildlife damage control workshop proceedings; 1989 April 17-20; Fort Collins, CO. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-171. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 154-159. [9816]
  • 12. Betters, David R. 1983. Overstory-understory relationships: aspen forests. In: Bartlett, E.T.; Betters, David R., eds. Overstory-understory relationships in Western forests. Western Regional Research Publication No. 1. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Experiment Station: 5-8. [3309]
  • 16. Carlson, Clinton E.; Fellin, David G.; Schmidt, Wyman C. 1983. The western spruce budworm in northern Rocky Mountain forests: a review of ecology, past insecticidal treatments and silvicultural practices. In: O'Loughlin, Jennifer; Pfister, Robert D., eds. Management of second-growth forests: The state of knowledge and research needs: Proceedings of a symposium; 1982 May 14; Missoula, MT. Missoula, MT: University of Montana, School of Forestry, Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station: 76-103. [7097]
  • 24. DeBano, L. F. 1977. Influence of forest practices on water yeild, channel stability, erosion and sedimentation in the Southwest. In: Proceedings, 1977 Society of American Foresters National Conference; 1977 October 2-6; Albuquerque, NM. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters: 74-78. [8602]
  • 25. DeByle, Norbert V. 1990. Aspen ecology and management in the western United States. In: Adams, Roy D., ed. Aspen symposium '89: Proceedings; 1989 July 25-27; Duluth, MN. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-140. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station: 11-20. [12416]
  • 28. Dirr, Michael A.; Heuser, Charles W., Jr. 1987. The reference manual of woody plant propagation: From seed to tissue culture. Athens, GA: Varsity Press, Inc. 239 p. [16999]
  • 32. Edwards, D. G. W. 1986. Cone prediction, collection, and processing. In: Shearer, Raymond C., compiler. Proceedings--conifer tree seed in the Inland Mountain West symposium; 1985 August 5-6; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-203. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 78-102. [12784]
  • 33. Embry, Robert S.; Gottfied, Gerald J. 1971. Basal area growth of Arizona mixed conifer species. Res. Note. RM-198. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 3 p. [20905]
  • 34. Ernst, S. G.; Hanover, J. W.; Keathley, D. E. 1990. Assessment of natural interspecific hybridization of blue and Engelmann spruce in southwestern Colorado. Canadian Journal of Botany. 68: 1489-1496. [13555]
  • 36. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1958. Effect of storage conditions on the viability of Rocky Mountain tree pollens. In: Proceedings: Society of American Foresters meeting; 1957 November 10-13; Syracuse, NY. Washington D. C.: Society of American Foresters: 78-82. [11525]
  • 37. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1985. Silvical characteristics of blue spruce. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-117. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 19 p. [7478]
  • 38. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1990. Picea pungens Engelm. blue spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 238-249. [13387]
  • 40. Ffolliott, Peter F. 1983. Overstory-understory relationships: Southwestern ponderosa pine forests. In: Bartlett, E. T.; Betters, David R., eds. Overstory-understory relationships in western forests. Western Regional Research Publication No. 1. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Experiment Station: 13-18. [3311]
  • 41. Ffolliott, Peter F.; Gottfried, Gerald J. 1989. Production and utilization of herbaceous plants in small clearcuts in an Arizona mixed conifer forest. Res. Note RM-494. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 5 p. [10543]
  • 42. Ffolliott, Peter F.; Gottfried, Gerald J. 1991. Mixed conifer and aspen regeneration in small clearcuts within a partially harvested Arizona mixed conifer forest. Res. Pap. RM-294. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 9 p. [14625]
  • 45. Flexner, J. Lindsey; Bassett, John R.; Montgomery, Bruce A.; Simmons, Gary A.; Witter, John A. 1983. Spruce-fir silviculture and the spruce budworm in the lake states. Handbook 83-2. Michigan Cooperative Forest Pest Management Program, Canusa. 30 p. [8664]
  • 46. Fowler, D. P.; Roche, L. 1977. Genetics of Engelmann spruce. Res. Pap. WO-30. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 13 p. [7480]
  • 49. George, Ernest J. 1953. Thirty-one-year results in growing shelterbelts on the Northern Great Plains. Circular No. 924. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 57 p. [4567]
  • 50. Gottfried, Gerald J. 1978. Five-year growth and development in a virgin Arizona mixed conifer stand. Res. Pap. RM-203. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 22 p. [15661]
  • 51. Gottfried, Gerald J. 1983. Stand changes on a Southwestern mixed conifer watershed after timber harvesting. Journal of Forestry. 83(5): 311-316. [10516]
  • 52. Gottfried, Gerald J. 1992. Growth and development in an old-growth Arizona mixed conifer stand following initial harvesting. Forest Ecology and Management. 54: 1-26. [20231]
  • 53. Gray, Susan E. 1991. Seed-tree regeneration method: Silvicultural considerations. In: Genetics/silviculture workshop proceedings; 1990 August 27-31; Wenatchee, WA. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Timber Management Staff: 183-219. [16028]
  • 55. Stanek, W.; Alexander, K.; Simmons, C. S. 1981. Reconnaissance of vegetation and soils along the Dempster Highway, Yukon Territory: I. Vegetation types. BC-X-217. Victoria, BC: Environment Canada, Canadian Forestry Service, Pacific Forest Research Centre. 32 p. [16526]
  • 57. Hawksworth, Frank G. 1975. Dwarf mistletoe and its role in lodgepole pine ecosystems. In: Baumgartner, David M., ed. Management of lodgepole pine ecosystems: Symposium proceedings; 1973 October 9-11; Pullman, WA. Vol. 1. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, Cooperative Extension Service: 342-358. [7836]
  • 58. Hawksworth, Frank G. 1978. Biological factors of dwarf mistletoe in relation to control. In: Scharpf, Robert F.; Parmeter, John R., Jr., technical coordinators. Proceedings of the symposium on dwarf mistletoe control through forest management; 1978 April 11-13; Berkeley, CA. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-31. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station: 5-15. [14249]
  • 59. Shoemaker, Kathryn Wilde. 1975. Selected bibliography of studies in soil ecology with emphisis on the influence of fire on soil. Grand Canyon, AZ: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. 81 p. [8561]
  • 60. Hess, Karl; Alexander, Robert R. 1986. Forest vegetation of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in central Colorado: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-266. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 48 p. [1141]
  • 61. Hess, Karl; Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Grassland, shrubland, and forestland habitat types of the White River-Arapaho National Forest. Final Report. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 335 p. [1142]
  • 62. Holsten, Edward H; Werner, Richard A. 1990. Comparison of white, Sitka, and Lutz spruce and hosts of the spruce beetle in Alaska. Canadian Journal of Forestry Research. 20: 292-297. [11042]
  • 67. Jones, John R. 1974. Silviculture of southwestern mixed conifers and aspen: The status of our knowledge. Res. Pap. RM-122. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agricutlure, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 44 p. [16081]
  • 69. Kienast, Felix; Schweingruber, Fritz Hans. 1986. Dendroecological studies in the Front Range, Colorado, U.S. Arctic and Alpine Research. 18(3): 277-288. [15134]
  • 70. Komarkova, Vera; Alexander, Robert R.; Johnston, Barry C. 1988. Forest vegetation of the Gunnison and parts of the Uncompahgre National Forests: a preliminary habitat type classification. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-163. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 65 p. [5798]
  • 76. Larson, Frederic R.; Wolters, Gale L. 1983. Overstory-understory relationships: mixed conifer forests. In: Bartlett, E. T.; Betters, David R., eds. Overstory-understory relationships in Western forests. Western Regional Res. Publ. No. 1. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Experiment Station: 21-25. [3313]
  • 78. Lynch, Ann M.; Swetnam, Thomas W. 1992. Old-growth mixed-conifer and western spruce budworm in the southern Rocky Mountains. In: Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Moir, W. H.; Bassett, Richard L., technical coordinators. Old-growth forests in the southwest and Rocky Mountain regions: Proceedings of a workshop; 1992 March 9-13; Portal, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-213. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 66-80. [19044]
  • 79. Mathiasen, Robert L. 1986. Infection of young Douglas-firs and spruces by dwarf mistletoes in the Southwest. The Great Basin Naturalist. 46(3): 528-534. [15951]
  • 80. McCaughey, Ward W.; Schmidt, Wyman C.; Shearer, Raymond C. 1986. Seed-dispersal characteristics of conifers. In: Shearer, Raymond C., compiler. Proceedings--conifer tree seed in the Inland Mountain West symposium; 1985 August 5-6; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-203. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 50-62. [12593]
  • 82. McCaughey, Ward W.; Weaver, T. 1991. Seedling submergence tolerance of four western conifers. Tree Planters' Notes. 42(2): 45-48. [17340]
  • 83. McDonald, Geral I. 1991. Connecting forest productivity to behavior of soil-borne diseases. In: Harvey, Alan E.; Neuenschwander, Leon F., compilers. Proceedings--management and productivity of western-montane forest soils; 1990 April 10-12; Boise, ID. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-280. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 129-144. [15977]
  • 89. Nelson, David L.; Krebill, Richard G. 1982. Occurrence and effect of Chrysomyxa pirolata cone rust on Picea pungens in Utah. The Great Basin Naturalist. 42(2): 262-272. [15938]
  • 90. Nienstaedt, Hans; Teich, Abraham. 1972. Genetics of white spruce. Res. Pap. WO-15. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 24 p. [8753]
  • 93. Paton, Robert R.; Secrest, Edmund; Ezri, Harold A. 1944. Ohio forest plantings. Bull. 647. Wooster, OH: Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station. 77 p. [6974]
  • 103. Safford, L. O. 1974. Picea A. Dietr. spruce. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 587-597. [7728]
  • 105. Schaefer, P. R.; Hanover, J. W. 1990. An investigation of sympatric populations of blue and Engelmann spruces in the Scotch Creek drainage, Colorado. Silvae Genetica. 39(2): 72-81. [14209]
  • 106. Schmidt, Wyman C.; Larson, Milo. 1989. Silviculture of western inland conifers. In: Burns, Russell M., compiler. The scientific basis for silvicultural and management decisions in the National Forest System. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-55. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 40-58. [10245]
  • 107. Schroeder, W. R. 1988. Planting and establishment of shelterbelts in humid severe-winter regions. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 22/23: 441-463. [8774]
  • 118. Thill, Ronald E.; Ffolliott, Peter F.; Patton, David R. 1983. Deer and elk forage production in Arizona mixed conifer forests. Res. Pap. RM-248. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 13 p. [14381]
  • 119. Tuskan, Gerald A.; Laughlin, Kevin. 1991. Windbreak species performance and management practices as reported by Montana and North Dakota landowners. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 46(3): 225-228. [15084]
  • 123. Wagner, Anne M.; Fisher, James T.; Fancher, Greg A. 1989. Vegetative propagation of 10-year-old blue spruce by stem cuttings. In: Landis, Thomas D., technical coordinator. Proceedings, Intermountain Forest Nursery Association; 1989 August 14-18; Bismarck, ND. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-184. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 70-75. [17056]
  • 124. Walters, James W. 1978. A guide to forest diseases of southwestern conifers. R3 78-9. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwest Region, State and Private Forestry, Forest Insect and Disease Management. 36 p. [16779]

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

These plant materials are readily available from commercial sources. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Western spruce budworm larvae feed on old needles in late April, then mine developing buds and defoliate new tree growth. Heavy repeated attacks kill the tree.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Other uses and values

More info for the term: tree

Blue spruce is planted extensively as an ornamental in North America and
Europe [13,77,104,]. Blue spruce are used as Christmas trees [38,65].
It is the state tree of Colorado and Utah [77,65].
  • 38. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1990. Picea pungens Engelm. blue spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 238-249. [13387]
  • 65. Johnson, Carl M. 1970. Common native trees of Utah. Special Report 22. Logan, UT: Utah State University, College of Natural Resources, Agricultural Experiment Station. 109 p. [9785]
  • 77. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1950. Southwestern trees: A guide to the native species of New Mexico and Arizona. Agriculture Handbook No. 9. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 109 p. [20330]

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

More info for the terms: cover, reclamation

Blue spruce has been included in roadside reclamation on U.S. Highway 89
south of Afton, Wyoming. One year after grasses had been planted,
container-grown blue spruce were planted [23]. Data on establishment
success were not given.

Blue spruce was chosen as one of several species to provide cover and
foraging area for wildlife. This reclamation planting mediated habitat
loss due to increased water levels in Rufus Woods Lake, Washington [17].
No data on establishment success were given.

Blue spruce was planted in Canada as a part of shelterbelts to prevent
wind erosion [54].
  • 17. Carson, Robert G.; Edgerton, Paul J. 1989. Creating riparian wildlife habitat along a Columbia River impoundment in northcentral Washington. In: Wallace, Arthur; McArthur, E. Durant; Haferkamp, Marshall R., compilers. Proceedings--symposium on shrub ecophysiology and biotechnology; 1987 June 30 - July 2; Logan, UT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-256. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 64-69. [5924]
  • 23. Davis, Randy L.; Butler, Paul. 1989. Mix natives, exotics in row restoration effort (Wyoming). Restoration and Management Notes. 7(1): 48. [8056]
  • 54. Green, Jeffrey E.; Nilson, Alan. 1989. Wildlife habitat mitigation for the Oldman River Dam project, Alberta, Canada. In: Walker, D. G.; Powter, C. B.; Pole, M. W., compilers. Reclamation, a global perspective: Proceedings of the conference; 1989 August 27-31; Calgary, AB. Rep. No. RRTAC 89-2. Vol. 1. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Land Conservation and Reclamation Council: 165-173. [14358]

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Cover Value

More info for the terms: climax, cover, selection, tree

Blue spruce provides good environmental protection for elk, mule deer,
white-tailed deer, small mammals, and small nongame and upland game
birds in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. It gives poor cover for pronghorn
in Colorado and Wyoming, and fair to poor cover for waterfowl in Utah
and Wyoming [29].

Blue spruce was one of several species in a commercial conifer nursery
used by white-tailed and mule deer for hiding and thermal cover during a
severe winter in southeastern Wyoming [56]. Moose use blue spruce for
shelter [75]. In Wyoming, moose used the blue spruce climax association
an average of 5 percent over 4 years [63]. Where blue spruce occurred
in a ponderosa pine forest in Colorado, cavity nesting birds showed no
preference in tree species selection for nest sites [100].
Mixed-conifer forests of Arizona and New Mexico that blue spruce occur
in are valuable summer habitat for game and nongame animals and birds
[44,73].

Sensitive and endangered species use mixed-conifer stands in which blue
spruce occurs. Such species include flammulated owls in Colorado, Jemez
Mountain salamander of New Mexico, and northern goshawks in Arizona
[20,94,98,99]. Bald eagle breeding areas at intermediate elevation in
Wyoming are dominated by blue spruce and narrowleaf cottonwood. In the
Snake River Unit, 28 percent of the nests were in blue spruce trees
[114].
  • 20. Crocker-Bedford, D. Coleman. 1990. Goshawk reproduction and forest management. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 18(3): 262-269. [17446]
  • 29. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]
  • 44. Ffolliott, Peter F.; Thorud, David B. 1974. Vegetation for increased water yield in Arizona. Tech. Bull. 215. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 38 p. [4448]
  • 56. Hammer, Dennie A. 1989. Deer damage to an Austrian pine tree nursery in Wheatland, Wyoming. In: Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Uresk, Daniel W.; Hamre, R. H., tech. coords. 9th Great Plains wildlife damage control workshop proceedings; 1989 April 17-20; Fort Collins, CO. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-171. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 105-108. [9815]
  • 63. Lindsey, Gerald D. 1975. The influence of animals on lodgepole pine regeneration. In: Baumgartner, David M., ed. Management of lodgepole pine ecosystems: Symposium proceedings; 1973 October 9-11; Pullman, WA. Vol. 1. PUllman, WA: Washington State University, Cooperative Extension Service: 457-470. [7842]
  • 73. Lamb, S. H. 1971. Woody plants of New Mexico and their value to wildlife. Bull. 14. Albuquerque, NM: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. 80 p. [9818]
  • 75. Lanner, Ronald M. 1983. Trees of the Great Basin: A natural history. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. 215 p. [1401]
  • 94. Ramotnik, Cynthia A.; Scott, Norman J., Jr. 1988. Habitat requirements of New Mexico's endangered salamanders. In: Szaro, Robert C.; Severson, Kieth E.; Patton, David R., technical coordinators. Management of amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals in North America: Proceedings of the symposium; 1988 July 19-21; Flagstaff, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-166. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 54-63. [7108]
  • 99. Reynolds, Richard T.; Linkhart, Brian D. 1987. Fidelity to territory and mate in flammulated owls. In: Nero, Robert W.; Clark, Richard J.; Knapton, Richard J.; Hamre, R. H, eds. Biology and Conservation of Northern Forest Owls, Symposium Proceedings; 1987 February 3 - February 7; Winnipeg, MB. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-142. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 234-238. [17941]
  • 100. Reynolds, Richard T.; Linkhart, Brian D.; Jeanson, Judy-Jo. 1985. Characteristics of snags and trees containing cavities in a Colorado conifer forest. Res. Note RM-455. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 6 p. [15568]
  • 114. Swenson, Jon E.; Alt, Kurt L.; Eng, Robert L. 1986. Ecology of bald eagles in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Wildlife Monographs No. 95. Washington, DC: The Wildlife Society. 46 p. [10513]
  • 98. Reynolds, Richard T.; Linkhart, Brian D. 1987. The nesting biology of flammulated owls in Colorado. In: Proceedings, symposium on the biology and conservation of northern forest owls; 1987 February 3-7; Winnipeg, MB. [Place of publication unknown]. [Publisher unknown]. 239-248. [6918]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

More info for the term: cover

Blue spruce provides cover for a variety of bird and animal species
[29]. Big game forage is good throughout blue spruce habitat types in
northern New Mexico and southern Colorado [26]. Numerous birds eat blue
spruce seeds [122]. Blue spruce cones are cached by red squirrels in
Utah [128].

In a mixed-conifer forest in the White Mountains of Arizona, nongame
birds moderately preferred blue spruce for cover and gleening for
insects. In a comparison of usage in logged and control areas, mountain
chickadee and ruby-crowned kinglet preferred blue spruce in unlogged
areas only; yellow-rumped warbler preferred it in both treatment areas;
and gray-headed junco preferred blue spruce in logged areas only [47].
  • 26. DeVelice, Robert L.; Ludwig, John A. 1983. Climax forest series of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. In: Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region: 45-53. [779]
  • 29. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]
  • 47. Franzreb, Kathleen E. 1977. Bird population changes after timber harvesting of a mixed conifer forest in Arizona. Res. Pap. RM-184. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 26 p. [19331]
  • 122. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 128. Youngblood, Andrew P.; Mauk, Ronald L. 1985. Coniferous forest habitat types of central and southern Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-187. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 89 p. [2684]

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Wood Products Value

More info for the term: tree

Blue spruce is not an important timber tree because it occurs
infrequently, and the wood is brittle with many knots [38,65]. The wood
is light, soft with numerous resin canals, close-grained, and weak
[104,122]. When it is harvested, it is often cut and marketed with
Engelmann spruce [77].
  • 38. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1990. Picea pungens Engelm. blue spruce. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 238-249. [13387]
  • 65. Johnson, Carl M. 1970. Common native trees of Utah. Special Report 22. Logan, UT: Utah State University, College of Natural Resources, Agricultural Experiment Station. 109 p. [9785]
  • 77. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1950. Southwestern trees: A guide to the native species of New Mexico and Arizona. Agriculture Handbook No. 9. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 109 p. [20330]
  • 104. Sargent, Charles Sprague. 1933. Manual of the trees of North American (exclusive of Mexico). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 910 p. [20907]
  • 122. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Nutritional Value

The protein value of blue spruce is rated as poor, and its energy value
is fair [29].
  • 29. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]

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Palatability

Blue spruce is not a highly preferred food for either wildlife or
domestic animals [10,103]. Deer browse blue spruce infrequently [122].
In mixed-conifer forests, blue spruce is the least desired browse
species by elk and deer [67]. White-tailed deer in Conneticut browsed
ornamental blue spruce an average of 0.5 percent throughout the summer
[18]. Blue spruce can be used an an index of mule deer population size;
young blue spruce are severely damaged by browsing during times of
overpopulation [64].
  • 10. Beetle, Alan A. 1962. Range survey in Teton County, Wyoming: Part 2. Utilization and condition classes. Bull. 400. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Agricultural Experiment Station. 38 p. [418]
  • 18. Conover, M. R.; Kania, G. S. 1988. Browsing preference of white-tailed deer for different ornamental species. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 16: 175-179. [8933]
  • 64. Hungerford, C. R. 1970. Response of Kaibab mule deer to management of summer range. Journal of Wildlife Management. 34(40): 852-862. [1219]
  • 67. Jones, John R. 1974. Silviculture of southwestern mixed conifers and aspen: The status of our knowledge. Res. Pap. RM-122. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agricutlure, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 44 p. [16081]
  • 103. Safford, L. O. 1974. Picea A. Dietr. spruce. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 587-597. [7728]
  • 122. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Special Uses

Blue spruce is valued mainly for its appearance. Shortly after the  species was discovered in 1861, writers described it as "a finely  shaped tree" and "the most beautiful species of conifer,"  alluding to the symmetrical, pyramidal form and the glaucous, bluish or  silvery-gray foliage that some trees of the species display. The needle  coloration, caused by the presence of surface waxes (76), apparently  intensifies with tree age (13,14). These traits of symmetry and blue or  silver-gray cast, so common in horticultural plantings, are only  occasionally found in natural stands. In nature, trees with similar color  tend to occur in small, local populations, suggesting genetic control of  the color trait.

    Blue spruce is widely used as an ornamental, not only in the United  States, but in Europe, where it was introduced late in the 19th century.  At least 38 cultivars of blue spruce have been named, based primarily on  leaf coloration and crown form (3,19) (table 2). Although young blue  spruce usually show a pronounced layering of stiff branches, which give it  a distinct pyramidal form, the branches begin to droop and the crown  becomes thin and irregular as the tree ages. The trunk tapers rapidly, and  epicormic shoots commonly develop, giving the tree a ragged appearance.  Blue spruce is prized as a Christmas tree, and plantations have been  established in its native range and in north-central and northeastern  United States.

    Table 2- Some cultivated varieties of blue spruce.          Cultivar  Characteristics            'Argentea' Rosenthal  Silvery white      'Aurea' Niemitz  Golden yellow      'Bakeri' Bailey  Deep bluish white, long-leaved      'Caerulea' Beissner   Bluish white      'Compacta' Rehder  Dwarf, compact, densely flat-topped      'Glauca' Beissner 
  Bluish green; collective name for all glaucous-leaved  cultivars      'Glauca Pendula' Koster ex Beissner  Pendulous, bluish leaves, strongly sickle-shaped      'Hoopsii' Hoops ex F.J. Grootend  Dense, pyramidal; leaves very silvery   

      'Hunnewelliana' Hornibr.   

  Dwarf, dense, pyramidal; leaves pale green      'Koster' Boom 
 
  Pyramidal, pendulous-branched, with main branches  almost horizontal; leaves bluish white to silvery white      'Moerheimi' Ruys 
  Pyramidal, slender, dense, compact; leaves deep blue      'Thomsen' Thomsen 
  Pyramidal; leaves whitish to silvery blue, long      'Viridis' Regel  Dull green
  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Gilbert H. Fechner

Source: Silvics of North America

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Uses

Blue spruce has been little used for lumber or wood products because it is rarely abundant in nature and the wood is brittle and often full of knots. It sometimes is cut with Engelmann spruce. Because of its cold hardiness, symmetrical pyramidal form, and waxy, blue-hued foliage, blue spruce is widely planted in ornamental and general landscape settings. Numerous horticultural cultivars have been developed, based on needle color and crown form. It is used considerably for Christmas trees and blue spruce plantations have been established in the northeastern US – these probably the source of

escapes reported for several states far from its native range (Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland). Blue spruce is the state tree of Colorado and of Utah.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Wikipedia

Blue spruce

The Colorado spruce, blue spruce, green spruce[1] white spruce,[2] or Colorado blue spruce, with the scientific name Picea pungens, is a species of spruce tree. It is native to the Rocky Mountains of the United States. Its natural range extends from Colorado to Wyoming but it has been widely introduced elsewhere and is used as an ornamental tree in many places far beyond its native range.

Description[edit]

In the wild, Picea pungens grows to about 23 m (75 ft), but when planted in parks and gardens it seldom exceeds 15 m (49 ft) tall by 5 m (16 ft) wide. It is a columnar or conical evergreen conifer with densely growing horizontal branches. It has scaly grey bark on the trunk with yellowish-brown branches.

Waxy grey-green leaves, up to 3 cm (1 in) long, are arranged radially on the shoots which curve upwards. The pale brown cones are up to 10 cm (4 in) long.[3][4][5][6]

The specific epithet pungens means "sharply pointed", referring to the leaves.[7]

The blue spruce is the State Tree of Colorado.[8]

Cultivation[edit]

Picea pungens and its many cultivars are often grown as ornamental trees in gardens and parks.[4][5][9] It is also grown for the Christmas tree industry.[4]

Pests and diseases[edit]

The blue spruce is attacked by two species of Adelges, an aphid-like insect that causes galls to form. Nymphs of the pineapple gall adelgid form galls at the base of twigs which resemble miniature pineapples and those of the Cooley's spruce gall adelgid cause cone-shaped galls at the tips of branches. The larva of the spruce budworm eat the buds and growing shoots while the spruce needle miner hollows out the needles and makes them coalesce in a webbed mass. An elongated white scale insect, the pine needle scale (Chionaspis pinifoliae), feeds on the needles causing fluffy white patches on the twigs and aphids also suck sap from the needles and may cause them to fall and possibly dieback. Mites can also infest the blue spruce, especially in a dry summer, causing yellowing of the oldest needles.[10][11] Another insect pest is the spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) which bores under the bark. It often first attacks trees which have blown over by the wind and when the larvae mature two years afterwards, a major outbreak occurs and vast numbers of beetles attack nearby standing trees.[12]

The blue spruce is susceptible to several needle casting diseases which cause the needles to turn yellow, mottled or brown before they fall off. Various rust diseases also affect the tree causing yellowing of the needles as well as needle fall. Canker caused by Cytospora attacks one of the lower branches first and progressively makes its way higher up the tree. The first symptom is the needles turning reddish-brown and falling off. Meanwhile, patches of white resin appear on the bark and the branch eventually dies.[10]

Cultivars[edit]

Foliage of the cultivar 'Glauca globosa'

Common cultivars (those marked agm have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit):-

  • 'Glauca Globosa'agm[13] - shrub from 3–5 feet (0.91–1.52 m) in height[14]
  • 'Fat Albert' - compact perfect cone to 10 feet (3.0 m) of a silver blue color[15]
  • 'Glauca Jean's Dilly' - shrub from 3–6 feet (0.91–1.83 m) in height[16]
  • 'Glauca Pendula' - drooping branches, spreads to about 8 feet (2.4 m) wide by 4 feet (1.2 m) tall[17]
  • 'Hoopsii' agm[18]
  • 'Koster'[19]
  • 'Baby Blue Eyes'[20][21]
  • 'Baby Blue' [22]

Uses[edit]

The Navajo and Keres Native Americans used this tree as a traditional medicinal plant and a ceremonial item, and twigs are given as gifts to bring good fortune. An infusion of the needles is used to cure colds and settle the stomach. This liquid is also used externally to relieve rheumatic pains.[23]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Picea pungens: Blue Spruce, Colorado Blue Spruce, or Green Spruce (Pinaceae - Pine Family)". 
  2. ^ "Blue spruce, Picea pungens Engelm., Plant Symbol = PIPU". USDA NRCS. 
  3. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  4. ^ a b c USDA Accessed 2012-12-01
  5. ^ a b Barnes, Burton V.; Warren J. Wagner Jr. (September 15, 1ggg Y981). Michigan Trees: A Guide to the Trees of Michigan and the Great Lakes Region. Biological Science Series. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-08018-2. 
  6. ^ Vedel, H.; Lange, J. (1962). Trees and Bushes. Methuen & Co. pp. 119–120. ISBN 978-0416617801. 
  7. ^ Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. p. 224. ISBN 9781845337315. 
  8. ^ "State Trees & State Flowers". United States National Arboretum. June 11, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  9. ^ Conifers.org . accessed 1.12.2012
  10. ^ a b Gilman, Edward F.; Watson, Dennis G. (2011-05-01). "Picea pungens: Colorado Spruce". EDIS. IFAS Extension Service: University of Florida. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  11. ^ Cranshaw, W. S. (2013-06-13). "Scale Insects Affecting Conifers". Colorado State University Extension. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  12. ^ Ciesla, Bill (2013-04-19). "Spruce Beetle Threatens High Country Spruce Forests". Colorado State University Extension. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  13. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Picea pungens 'Globosa'". Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  14. ^ Missouri Botanical Garden: Picea pungens 'Glauca Globosa'
  15. ^ Missouri Botanical Garden: Picea pungens Fat Albert
  16. ^ Missouri Botanical Garden: Picea pungens 'Glauca Jean's Dilly'
  17. ^ Fine Gardening Plant Guide: Picea pungens ‘Glauca Pendula'
  18. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Picea pungens 'Hoopsii'". Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  19. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Picea pungens 'Koster'". Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  20. ^ "Missouri Botanical Garden - Picea pungens 'Baby Blueeyes'". 
  21. ^ "Washington State University - Picea pungens 'Baby Blueeyes'". 
  22. ^ "West Montrose Farms Ltd - Picea pungens 'Baby Blue'". 
  23. ^ U. Michigan-Dearborn: Ethnobotany Accessed 2012-12-01
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Notes

Comments

Limited hybridization occurs between Picea pungens and P . engelmannii (R.Daubenmire 1972; R.J. Taylor et al. 1975). 

 Blue spruce ( Picea pungens ) is the state tree of Colorado (as Colorado blue spruce) and Utah.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

More info for the term: natural

The currently accepted scientific name of blue spruce is Picea pungens
Engelm. [68,125]. It is a member of the pine family (Pinaceae). There
are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms.

Blue spruce does not readily hybridize with other conifers [105].
Throughout its range, it occurs with Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii
Parry), but few if any natural hybrids are ever produced [22,105].
Artificial crosses have produced small amounts of seed with low (0.3
percent) germination [34,46]. Blue spruce, Engelmann spruce, and white
spruce (Picea glauca) are sympatric in the Sweetgrass Hills of
north-central Montana. Putative hybrids among all three spruce species
have been reported [113].

Approximately 38 horticultural varieties of blue spruce have been
developed [37,122].
  • 125. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 68. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2d ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563]
  • 22. Daubenmire, R. 1972. On the relation between Picea pungens and Picea engelmannii in the Rocky Mountains. Canadian Journal of Botany. 50: 733-742. [15665]
  • 34. Ernst, S. G.; Hanover, J. W.; Keathley, D. E. 1990. Assessment of natural interspecific hybridization of blue and Engelmann spruce in southwestern Colorado. Canadian Journal of Botany. 68: 1489-1496. [13555]
  • 37. Fechner, Gilbert H. 1985. Silvical characteristics of blue spruce. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-117. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 19 p. [7478]
  • 46. Fowler, D. P.; Roche, L. 1977. Genetics of Engelmann spruce. Res. Pap. WO-30. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 13 p. [7480]
  • 105. Schaefer, P. R.; Hanover, J. W. 1990. An investigation of sympatric populations of blue and Engelmann spruces in the Scotch Creek drainage, Colorado. Silvae Genetica. 39(2): 72-81. [14209]
  • 113. Strong, W. L. 1978. Evidence for Picea pungens in north-central Montana and its significance. Canadian Journal of Botany. 56: 1118-1121. [20906]
  • 122. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Common Names

blue spruce
Colorado blue spruce
Colorado spruce
silver spruce
pino real

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Synonyms

Picea parryana Sarg.
Picea commutata Horton

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