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Picea engelmannii

Picea engelmannii
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Product Information

Scientific name: Picea engelmannii   Parry ex Engelmann 1863

Synonyms: Abies commutata (Parl.) Gordon, Abies engelmannii Parry, Abies nigra Engelm., Picea columbiana Lemmon, Picea columbiana (Lemmon) Beissn., Pinus commutata Parl.

Common names: Engelmann spruce, Silver spruce, White spruce, Mountain spruce



Tree to 50(-60) m tall, or a spreading shrub above the alpine timberline, with trunk to 2(-2.5) m in diameter. Bark remaining flaky with age to uncover reddish brown patches beneath the generally gray exterior. Crown conical, flattening at the top with age, with densely spaced tiers of gently rising branches bearing horizontal side branches. New branchlets pale yellowish brown, usually finely hairy. Buds 3-6 mm long, a little resinous. Needles yellowish green to bluish green with wax, 1.5-3(-5) cm long, straight or curved gently forward, square, with (one or) two or three stomatal lines on each side, pointed but not prickly. Pollen cones 10-15 mm long, red. Seed cones (2.5-)3-6(-8) cm long, reddish green before maturity, ripening greenish brown. Seed scales round or cutoff diamond-shaped, thin and flexible. Seed body 2-3 mm long, the wing about 7-10 mm longer.

Central British Columbia south in the Cascade Rangers to northwestern California and in the Rocky Mountains to southeastern Arizona and southern New Mexico. Forming pure stands or mixed with subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) and less commonly with other conifers in subalpine forest and extending above timberline as a low shrub; (600-)1,000-3,300(-3,700). The climate is cold and humid (precipitation above 600 mm annually), with long, snowy winters and short, cool summers.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

Picea engelmannii and its typical subspecies (subsp. engelmannii) is one of the most widespread and abundant conifers in North America and is therefore assessed as Least Concern. Picea engelmannii subsp. mexicana (Martínez) P.A. Schmidt is assessed separately as Endangered. It grows on various mountain soils, both calcareous and non-calcareous. The species forms extensive pure forests or mixed coniferous forests, with Abies lasiocarpa, Pinus spp., Pseudotsuga menziesii, Larix occidentalis, or Picea glauca as most common associated species. In Mexico, subsp. mexicana is restricted to high altitude, N-facing slopes and ravines on limestone mountains. Large scale logging of this species in Canada and parts of the NW USA may have removed this spruce from some areas in the past, but better management allowing regeneration is now common forestry practice. Its enormous geographical range and abundance especially in the northern Rocky Mountains are considered safeguards against potential hazards such as windfall following inappropriate clear cutting, insect pests and fires. Engelmann spruce is an important timber tree with a high yield potential especially in managed stands within its native range. Its knotty wood is not of very high grade, but nevertheless increasingly used for home building, carpentry, furniture, plywood, and specialist uses such as musical instruments (pianos, violins). Uses for mining timber, railroad sleepers, and telephone poles have declined and mass production is now directed to the pulp wood industry, especially in western Canada. Here massive clear cut operations still bare whole mountainsides regularly. This species is rarely planted as an ornamental, although it will grow well even on poor soils, and only a few cultivars are known in the trade. Spruces are not much in use as Christmas trees in North America, unlike in Europe where they are the commonest genus for this purpose. The subspecies mexicana is rare in cultivation. This species is present in many protected areas, including famous national parks within the USA and Canada. The Mexican subspecies is poorly represented in protected areas.



  • 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 CodePIC8WDVD36

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