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Picea omorika

Picea omorika
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Product Information

Scientific name: Picea omorika  (Pančić) Purk. 1877

Synonyms: Abies omorika (Pancic) Nyman, Pinus omorika Pancic

Common names: Serbian spruce



Tree to 30(-50) m tall, with trunk to 1 m in diameter. Bark reddish brown, remaining thin and scaly with age. Crown narrowly conical, often spirelike, with numerous short, downswept branches turning up at the ends and bearing dangling side branches. New branchlets grayish brown to orange brown, densely hairy at first. Buds 3-4(-8) mm long, mostly not resinous. Needles shiny dark green above (on the outer face), waxy grayish white beneath (on the inner face), 1-2 cm long, straight and angled forward or curved forward, flat, with two bands of four to six lines of stomates on the inner face and without them on the outer one, blunt or slightly pointed. Pollen cones 20-25 mm long, pale reddish purple. Seed cones (2-)4-6.5 cm long, deep blackish violet before maturity, ripening chocolate brown. Seed scales fan-shaped to circular, thin but woody and stiff. Seed body 2-4 mm long, the wing 5-8 mm longer.

Tara and Javor Mountains of western Serbia and adjacent Bosnia and Herzegovina  and other ranges near the Drina River. Forming pure stands or mixed with Norway spruce (Picea abies) and other conifers in montane forest on steep limestone and serpentine slopes; (300-)800-1,600(-1,700) m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered

Global and European regional assessment: Endangered (EN). A very distinctive species, with very slender form. Since it is sympatric with Picea abies, which may also have a very slender form, these two species have been confused in the past due to the use of the same vernacular name - omorika. According to Novac (1927), the word ‘Omorika’ is common in Bosnian and Serbian folklore where it symbolize slenderness. According to other authors, the word “omora” symbolize gloomy and dark environmental conditions, and thus, trees found in such conditions are called “omorika”. Until the middle of the 19th century the natural range of Picea omorika was more continuous and less disjunct than it is today. Its current fragmented distribution is mainly the result of anthropogenic factors such as general forest clearing and cutting, pastoralism and wildfires. Fire has perhaps been the biggest threat. For example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1950s, a large forested valley was devastated by fire which left three small fragments, each about 5 km apart. Local changes in landuse has prevented these fragments from expanding. More recently, during the 1992-1993 conflict, the forest at Strugovi was deliberately burnt leaving today less than 100 mature individuals alive. Generally speaking, regeneration is extremely limited except on the steepest rocky slopes and on cliffs where broadleaved trees are unable to compete effectively. During recent fieldwork in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was noted that the isolated locality at Viogor in Čajniče Municipality had a poor quality of habitat where the old-growth trees were stressed with thin crowns. Fire has also been highlighted as a major threat in Serbia. According to extensive and long-lasting survey, Čolić (1987) observed that many sites in Serbia have been affected by fire over the past 100 years or so, and that whole populations or population parts have been destroyed once or even several times. However, at most sites, populations have successfully been re-established after the fire. In dense populations (e.g. 1,200 individuals per ha such as in Studenac in Serbia), natural regeneration is poor because seedlings require light for their development. Thus, at such sites, openings created by fire or tree-fall gaps are quickly inhabited by individuals developing from seeds from neighbouring trees. At site Crveni potok-Mitrovac, with three remnant trees with damaged crowns, natural regeneration is not present because peatlands are extremely unfavourable habitats for the species (Aleksić 2008). During recent field work in Serbia, drying of individuals at several sites has been observed, and this may be due to the rapid climate warming. One of the common pests of Picea omorika is Armillaria ostoyae (Romang.) which causes root rot and drying of the crown. In terms of the global climate warming, trees are under increased physiological stress and are more susceptible to this pest which may cause the rapid loss of individuals and of whole subpopulations in the near future (J. Aleksić pers. comm. 2017). Infected trees dry within a period of five to six years, and affected trees have been observed in both plantations (Ivetić and Aleksić 2016) and natural populations (e.g., Petlova stena, Studenac, etc.). The decline in the number of mature individuals may become even more pronounced due to the rapid climate change (Ballian 2006). Picea omorika is a pioneer species which retreats to sites inaccessible to its competitors upon their arrival. It is a poor competitor, and natural regeneration may be facilitated by the occasional removal of mail competitors. Once established, it often becomes suppressed by Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica and Picea abies (Burschel 1965). In Serbia, all sites are conserved in situ. The main objective of conservation is conservation with no active intervention, and thus, sites within Tara National Park (Gajić et al. 1994) are characterised by untouched forests left for the free development. Sites outside the Tara National Park are usually on private property, and although owners are not allowed to cut Picea omorika trees, it is unknown whether they follow this directive. There are several sites with planted trees of unknown origin on less than 20 ha which are managed by the Forestry Enterprise Srbijašume, and one generative seed orchard established in 1987 on 2.7 ha from 50 half-sib families. In Bosnia and Herzegovina all stands are protected by national legislation. Picea omorika is widely grown in gardens in northern Europe and worldwide but few of these collections are either comprehensive or well documented. A well-coordinated ex situ conservation programme could play a significant role in conserving the genetic diversity of this species and enabling its persistence especially in terms of global climate warming. Given the species highly fragmented distribution, high genetic differentiation of populations and their poor connectivity as well as rather high levels species of genetic diversity in all populations including the small ones (Aleksić and Geburek 2014, Aleksić et al. 2017), seed for ex situ conservation should be collected from all remnant populations. Recent collections by the International Conifer Conservation Programme in collaboration with Bosnia and Herzegovina aims to broaden the genetic base of the trees grown in the UK. An extensive programme of seed-banking would also be advantageous. A controversial approach, assisted translocation, may be employed as well (Ivetić and Aleksić 2016).



  • 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 CodePIC5FY1F16

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