prairie dropseed sporobolus heterolepis ftimg
Prairie Dropseed
January 31, 2010
white spruce picea glauca ftimg
White Spruce
January 31, 2010

Norway Spruce

norway spruce picea abies ftimg

Norway Spruce

Picea abies

Description & Overview

Norway Spruce grows rapidly when young, up to 3 feet per year! However, its large mature size must be considered when siting this plant. This tree should be given plenty of room and is ideal for spaces needing a fast growing screen. It is also somewhat resistant to glyphosate herbicide, making it suitable for use near agricultural land. Use as a specimen, windbreak, or screen.


Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: No – Introduced
Mature Height: 50-70 feet
Mature Spread: 25-30 feet
Growth Rate: Fast
Growth Form: Broad pyramidal evergreen, pendulous branches
Light Requirements: Full Sun
Site Requirements: Tolerant of many soils except excessively dry sites
Flower: Monoecious, insignificant pink-red male and ruby-red female flowers
Bloom Period: May
Foliage: Medium Green
Fall Color: N/A-Evergreen
Fruit Notes: Cone, 4-7 inches long, purple-green maturing to brown

Suggested Uses:

Norway Spruce grows rapidly when young, up to 3 feet per year! However, its large mature size must be considered when siting this plant. This tree should be given plenty of room and is ideal for spaces needing a fast growing screen. It is also somewhat resistant to glyphosate herbicide, making it suitable for use near agricultural land. Use as a specimen, windbreak, or screen.

norway spruce picea abies milwaukee

Wildlife Value:

Although not native to North America, Norway Spruce provides cover to many avian species. Hawks, owls, and other birds of prey may be found roosting in the upper part of the tree. In a woodland setting, Norway spruce provides habitat to furbearing species like the threatened American Marten.

Maintenance Tips:

The rapid growth of Norway Spruce occurs in two stages; upwards then outwards. Because of this, a young tree may look awkward with a long central leader that has no lateral branching. While this may be unsightly in youth, do not shear the tree to improve its immediate aesthetics. This will damage the structure and form of the Norway Spruce. Their best performance is when left to grow naturally.

Established Norway Spruce trees are somewhat tolerant of drought, but will benefit from deep watering when rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Watering should be done at the base of the tree, directly into the soil. Avoid using an irrigation system that sprays the needles, as wet foliage is conducive to fungal and bacterial diseases.

Like all evergreens, Norway Spruce can suffer winter damage if fertilized incorrectly. Homeowners should avoid applying fertilizer in fall as this may cause a new flush of growth that will not harden off for winter. A trained plant health care professional or arborist can advise how to best apply fall fertilization. Alternatively, a maintained mulch ring will slowly add nutrients to the soil, avoiding the need for fertilizer application.

norway spruce picea abies waukesha

Pests/Problems:

Norway Spruce has no serious insect or disease issues. It is more resistant (but not immune) to Rhizosphaera needlecast than Colorado Blue Spruce and White Spruce. Occasionally, Norway Spruce can develop Cytospora Canker and Rust diseases. It can also be attacked by Spider Mites, Spruce Gall Aphids, and boring insects. These pests and pathogens typically present when the tree is already stressed. The best prescription for a healthy Norway Spruce is maintaining tree vigor with watering and mulch.

Norway Spruce performs best in full sun. Although it can survive in some shade, the form of Norway Spruce becomes loose and unsightly when it receives less than 6 hours of direct sun. Be aware of available light when siting this tree for best results.

Norway Spruce, like other spruces, is mostly deer resistant. Browsing may occur in periods of high pressure, but this is infrequent in Southeast Wisconsin.

Leaf Lore:

Norway Spruce has long been prized for forest products for its strong wood and rapid growth rate. Its wood is used for structural lumber, paper production, and specialty products like tonewood for string instruments. Due to its high economic and cultural value, Norway Spruce was the first gymnosperm to have its genome sequenced. It is also a popular Christmas tree due to its heavy branching. Oslo, the capital of Norway, gifts a massive Norway Spruce to Edinburgh, London, and Washington, D.C. each year to be used as a Christmas tree. These 50 year old trees are a symbol of thanks for Britain and the United States’ aid during World War II.

The value of Norway Spruce extends beyond wood products. The fresh shoots of the tree have long been used in traditional medicine to treat respiratory, skin, and gastrointestinal ailments. The resins are used for burgundy pitch, a component of many varnishes and medicinal compounds. Its needles were once used to brew spruce beer, both a treatment for scurvy and refreshing beverage. If you are interested in brewing your own, the following is an American recipe from 1796 (meant to use Red or Black Spruce):

Take four ounces of hops, let them boil half an hour in one gallon of water, strain the hop water then add sixteen gallons of warm water, two gallons of molasses, eight ounces of essence of spruce, dissolved in one quart of water, put it in a clean cask, then shake it well together, add half a pint of emptins (yeast), then let it stand and work one week, if very warm weather less time will do, when it is drawn off to bottle, add one spoonful of molasses to every bottle.

Norway Spruce has the largest cones of all Spruce trees and is a key identifier for the species. White Spruce produces cones that are 1-2 inches, Colorado Blue Spruce produces cones that are 2-4 inches, and Norway Spruce cones are 4-7 inches. If you ever struggle to determine what kind of spruce you are looking at, check the cones!

Although not native to North America, Norway Spruce was brought to the continent by early settlers and has naturalized in several Wisconsin counties. In the United States, the tree has been used to reclaim mine spoils and other disturbed sites due to its toughness.

One of the oldest trees in the world is a Norway Spruce. Named Old Tjikko, the surprisingly small 16 feet tall tree grows from a root system that is over 9,500 years old! The tree has persisted through resprouting and layering, and is considered the oldest individual clonal tree. Old Tjikko was discovered on Fulufjallet Mountain, Sweden, by Professor Leif Kullman.

Companion Plants:

The seasonal needle drop of Norway Spruce will acidify the soil beneath. When selecting perennials for underplanting, use those that tolerate soil acidity and heavy shade. Some options include Solomon’s Seal, Delft Lace Astilbe, Wild Ginger, and Spikenard.


Norway Spruce Picea abies benchcard

NORWAY SPRUCE BENCHCARD