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Picea abies

Picea abies
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Scientific name: Picea abies  (Linnaeus) Karsten 1881

Synonyms: Abies abies (L.) Druce, Abies alpestris Brügger, Abies carpatica (Loudon) Ravenscr., Abies cinerea Borkh., Abies clambrasiliana Lavallée, Abies clanbrassiliana P.Lawson, Abies coerulescens K.Koch, Abies communis P.Lawson, Abies conica Lavallée, Abies cranstonii Lavallée, Abies elegans Sm. ex J.Knight, Abies eremita K.Koch, Abies erythrocarpa (Purk.) Nyman, Abies excelsa (Lam.) Poir., Abies extrema Th.Fr., Abies finedonensis Gordon, Abies gigantea Sm. ex Carrière, Abies gregoryana H.Low. ex Gordon, Abies inverta R.Sm. ex Gordon, Abies lemoniana Booth ex Gordon, Abies medioxima C.Lawson, Abies minima Lavallée, Abies minuta Poir., Abies montana Nyman, Abies mucronata Rausch ex Carrière, Abies parvula Knight, Abies pectinata Gilib., Abies picea Mill., Abies pumila Voss, Abies subarctica (Schur) Nyman, Abies viminalis Wahlenb., Abies vulgaris Wender., Picea alpestris (Brügger) Stein, Picea cranstonii Beissn., Picea elegantissima Beissn., Picea excelsa (Lam.) Link, Picea finedonensis Beissn., Picea gregoryana Beissn., Picea integrisquamis (Carrière) Chiov., Picea maxwellii Beissn., Picea montana Schur, Picea remontii Beissn., Picea rubra A.Dietr., Picea subarctica Schur, Picea velebitica Simonk. ex Kümmerle, Picea viminalis (Alstr.) Beissn., Picea vulgaris Link, Pinus abies L., Pinus carpatica Gordon, Pinus cinerea Röhl., Pinus clanbrassiliana Lodd., Pinus excelsa Lam., Pinus picea Du Roi, Pinus pyramidalis Salisb., Pinus sativa Lam., Pinus viminalis Alstr.

Common names: Norway spruce, European spruce



Tree to 50(-60) m tall, with trunk to 1.5(-2) m in diameter. Bark breaking up somewhat into gray plates at the base of old trees. Crowns quite variable, narrowly or broadly conical, with upswept or stiffly outstretched branches bearing horizontal or dangling side branches. New branchlets orange-brown, hairless to densely hairy. Buds 4-7 mm long, slightly resinous or not. Needles dark to bright green, 1-2.5(-3) cm long, curved forward, square, with two to four lines of stomates on each side, not prickly. Pollen cones (8-)12-25 mm long, purplish red. Seed cones 5-16(-20) cm long, green before maturity, ripening medium brown. Seed scales roughly egg- or diamond-shaped, woody and stiff. Seed body 3-5 mm long, the wing 10-15 mm longer.

Northern Eurasia, from the Maritime Alps and northern Balkan Peninsula north to Scandinavia and east across European Russia and Siberia to the Lena River, south to the Altai and Amur regions. In pure stands or mixed with other boreal and montane conifers and hardwoods on moist soils; 0-3,000 m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

Picea abies is the most abundant, if not widespread conifer in Europe. As such, it is assessed as Least Concern at both the global and EU28 members states levels. Picea abies is widespread and dominant in Boreal conifer forests of northern and northeastern Europe, where it replaces Pinus sylvestris on wetter sites because Picea abies can avoid the water table with a very shallow root system. The natural distribution shows continental tendencies but in the western mountains of Central Europe an ecotype has evolved that is adapted to sub-Atlantic weather conditions with heavy 'wet' snowfall in early winter. Its inability to compete with more shade tolerant Abies alba and Fagus sylvatica as well as historical factors have limited its natural expansion into western Europe. In the Alps Picea abies occupies the montane to subalpine zones (dependent on local climate) especially on moist sites and in cold air pockets. Although it can occur on most substrates, acidic soils are most common and widespread as is testified by the undergrowth, if present, of ericaceous shrubs and sub-shrubs. Commonly growing with Picea abies in the Boreal forests are Betula sp. and Populus tremula, with willows (Salix) alongside streams and lakes. In the Alps Picea abies occurs with Larix decidua, Pinus cembra, and Pinus sylvestris or Pinus nigra, if not in pure stands. In eastern Europe, Picea abies is a constituent of mixed conifer-broad-leaved woodland from the Białowieża Forest in the north to the valleys of the eastern Alps and the Carpathians. No specific range wide threats have been identified for this species or either of its varieties. Norway spruce is an important timber tree in Europe, where outside the Boreal forest zone most commercial timber is now harvested from plantations or from managed forests in which other trees are suppressed. Forestry has expanded the range of this species considerably further west. The wood is used for pulpwood as well as construction, furniture (most of the popular 'pine' furniture is made with wood from Norway spruce), and special uses like the sound boards of pianos and the bodies of guitars and violins. The famous Stradivarius violins were made with wood of Norway Spruce from the Alps. In Europe this species is the most popular Christmas tree, a tradition that actually started in Germany, with the extensive afforestation beginning in the 18th Century. Norway Spruce is not much planted as an amenity tree, but in horticulture more than 200 cultivars have been selected, with different habits including 'weeping', prostrate and dwarf forms, red, white or yellow flushing leaf forms, and (other) monstrosities. Norway spruce is present in numerous protected areas throughout its range.



  • Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
  • Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland.
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Cambridge, UK /Gland, Switzerland

Copyright © Aljos Farjon, James E. Eckenwalder, IUCN, Conifers Garden. All rights reserved.

Product CodePICYIIUP91

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