The Norway spruce (Picea abies), a tough coniferous evergreen, grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 7. Growing in a range that includes states as far south as North Carolina and as far north as Maine and into Canada, this tree is adaptable to all sorts of weather, temperature extremes, and wet periods or drought.
The USDA has divided the nation's landmass into distinct growing zones, each specifying which types of plants are best adapted to growing conditions in a particular area. USDA zones range from 1 to 12, with 1 being the area where the lowest winter temperatures are recorded to 11 where winters are mild. Because it survives in USDA zone 2, Norway spruce tolerates average low winter temperatures of minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It can also withstand the hot weather common in USDA zone 7, where summer temperatures often approach 100 F.
As a member of the large Pine, or Pinacea, family that is widespread in many climates, the Norway spruce reproduces through seeds produced in cones that usually develop during the summer and are released in fall. Native to Europe, including Norway, the Norway spruce prefers a cool, moist climate where it can quickly reach a mature height of 80 feet. It does best in full sun with some shade, and spreads to 40 feet in a symmetrical shape. Growth is in the form of a pyramid with horizontal side branches from which hang numerous branchlets. The tree's stiff, sharp, dense, dark green needles measure roughly 1 inch, while the scaly cones grow to 6 inches.
In addition to the temperature extremes possible in its growing zones, Norway spruce also tolerates a wide range of growing conditions, including urban pollution, poor soil, soil that is too acidic or alkaline, or in rocky arid areas. The only condition it cannot tolerate is overly wet soil, which usually proves fatal to the Norway spruce. Propagated by seeds or stem cuttings, saplings are normally sold at nurseries with their roots wrapped in burlap. They are usually trimmed during production to produce a more dense tree. These plants establish quickly after transplanting. Stake young trees during their first two years to prevent them from being bent in high winds.
In its native area, Norway spruce trees multiplied rapidly and continued to do so once they were brought to North America. Adapting quickly to conditions in a wide area, the species is now often grown as a specimen tree in yards and parks, and as visual screens and windbreaks. A mature Norway spruce provides significant shade that may prevent the growth of a lawn beneath it. Pests and diseases don't bother it, and it can handle heavy loads of snow with no damage to its branches.
- Virginia Tech Department of Forest Services and Environmental Conservation: Norway Spruce
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources: Norway Spruce (Picea Abies)
- Ohio State University Horticulture in Virtual Perspective: Picea Abies
- Iowa State University Forestry Extension: Norway Spruce (Picea Abies)
- USDA: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
- American Horticultural Society: AHS Plant Heat Zone Map
- Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Trees; George A. Petrides
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