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What Is a Norway Spruce?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet

A Norway spruce, also known by its scientific name, Picea abies, is a type of evergreen tree that is indigenous to Europe and is also found in parts of North America. It is usually triangular in shape, with bright green needles and long brown cones, and can grow fairly tall over time. The Norway spruce is a fairly resilient tree, and it produces both male and female flowers. While this tree has a number of possible uses, perhaps its most familiar use is as a Christmas tree.

The Norway spruce is indigenous to central and northern Europe. It was also introduced to the US and Canada by European settlers. While the tree is not native to North America, it has proven amenable to the growing conditions found throughout much of the continent, particularly the Pacific Northwest as well as the northeastern US and southeastern Canada.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

For the first few decades of a Norway spruce’s life, its boughs tend to be evenly arranged around its trunk, and to have a wide circumference that grows smaller toward the tree’s top, giving it a triangular shape. As the tree ages, its bough distribution often becomes less neat. The Norway spruce can grow up to a height of approximately 200 feet (61 meters), although most specimens only reach roughly 130 feet (40 meters). Its boughs are covered with shoots of brilliant green needles, and are also hung with long brown cones during some parts of the year.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Norway spruce is its resilience. While it is best suited to cool or cold weather, it can survive in many different weather conditions, except for those that produce very wet soil. On a related note, the tree can grow in many different types of soil. Another trait that contributes to the tree’s resilience is that it produces both female and male flowers. This means that it is capable of pollinating itself with just a bit of help from the wind, birds, or insects.

Commercial manufacturers and gardeners have found a number of uses for the Norway spruce. It can be used to produce paper and varnish. The tree is often planted in public parks or in the area surrounding a home for decorative purposes. It is also among the evergreens most commonly used as Christmas trees, and consequently is often grown on Christmas tree farms.

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Why is a Norway spruce called a Norway spruce when it grows throughout Europe?

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