Open the Advanced Search

Norway Spruce

Picea abies

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Pinaceae (Pine)
Evergreen tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 metres tall
Heathland, mountains, woodland.

Brown, no petals
Red male cones. Female rufous brown catkins, cigar-shaped and hanging, up to 15cm long. Wind pollinated.
The female flowers develop into green cones, which then grow and become reddish-brown. The cones have roundish to diamond-shaped scales.
A coniferous, evergreen tree. Short, 4-angled, pointed, needle-like leaves. Maximum length is 2.5cm.
The needles are sweet-smelling.
Other Names:
European Spruce, German Spruce, Norwegian Spruce.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Picea abies, also known as Norway spruce, is a species of coniferous tree in the pine family Pinaceae. It is native to Europe and is commonly used for timber and as a Christmas tree. It can grow up to 60 meters tall and has needle-like leaves that are typically 4-8mm long. The cones are cylindrical and hang down from the branches. Norway spruce is also used for reforestation and soil conservation.


Norway spruce, also known by its scientific name Picea abies, is a large evergreen tree that is widely distributed across Europe. It is an important species for both commercial and ecological reasons, and has been widely used for a variety of purposes throughout history. In this blog post, we will explore the biology, uses, and cultural significance of Norway spruce.


Norway spruce is a coniferous tree that can grow up to 60 meters in height and 1.5 meters in diameter. It has a conical shape and a dense, dark green foliage that is made up of thin, needle-like leaves that are arranged spirally on the branches. The tree produces small, oblong cones that hang down from the branches and can grow up to 20 cm in length.

Norway spruce is a hardy tree that can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. It is typically found in cool, humid environments at high elevations, but can also grow in lower elevations and in a variety of soil types. The tree is also resistant to pests and diseases, which makes it a valuable species for reforestation efforts.


Norway spruce has a long history of use by humans, and has been utilized for a wide variety of purposes. The wood of the tree is strong, lightweight, and flexible, which makes it well-suited for construction and woodworking. It has been used to build everything from houses to musical instruments, and is also a popular material for making paper and cardboard.

In addition to its commercial uses, Norway spruce is also an important species for ecological reasons. It is a key component of many forest ecosystems, providing food and habitat for a variety of animals. The tree also helps to prevent soil erosion, and can improve water quality by filtering runoff from the surrounding landscape.

Cultural Significance

Norway spruce has a rich cultural history, and has been used in many different ways by people throughout the centuries. In Scandinavia, the tree is closely associated with Christmas, and is often used as a Christmas tree. It is also a symbol of the winter solstice and is sometimes used in traditional winter celebrations.

The tree has also played an important role in folklore and mythology. In Germanic mythology, the god Odin was said to have hanged himself from a Norway spruce in order to gain knowledge and wisdom. The tree was also believed to have magical properties, and was sometimes used in healing rituals.

Norway spruce is a fascinating and important species that has played a significant role in human history and culture. From its use in construction and papermaking to its role in forest ecosystems and cultural traditions, the tree has had a wide-ranging impact on the world around us. As we continue to face environmental challenges, the value of Norway spruce and other trees like it will only continue to grow.

Ecological Importance

Norway spruce is an important tree species in European forest ecosystems, where it serves as a major component of both natural and managed forests. It is known to provide habitat and food for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and mammals. Some bird species, such as the capercaillie, rely heavily on Norway spruce for their survival, as they feed on the tree's needles and buds.

The tree also has a role in preventing soil erosion and improving soil quality, as its needles decompose and add nutrients to the forest floor. Norway spruce is also capable of absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which makes it an important species for mitigating climate change.

Commercial Uses

The wood of Norway spruce is highly valued for its strength, durability, and ease of use. It is commonly used in construction, furniture-making, and musical instrument-building. The tree's long, straight trunk and flexible branches make it an ideal material for timber framing and truss work, and its soft, light-colored wood is popular for making plywood, pulp, and other paper products.

In addition, Norway spruce is often used as a decorative tree in parks and gardens due to its attractive, conical shape and dark green foliage. It is also a popular Christmas tree species in Europe, where it is grown specifically for that purpose.


Norway spruce is widely cultivated in Europe for timber production, and is also grown in other parts of the world, including North America and Asia. The tree is relatively easy to grow, and can tolerate a wide range of soils and climates. It is often planted in large monoculture forests, where it is managed for maximum timber yield.

However, there are concerns about the ecological impacts of Norway spruce monocultures, as they can lead to the loss of biodiversity and increased risk of pests and diseases. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in promoting more diverse, mixed-species forests, which can provide a range of ecological and social benefits.

In conclusion, Norway spruce is a highly valuable tree species with a long and fascinating history. From its ecological and commercial uses to its cultural significance, the tree has played an important role in shaping the world around us. As we continue to face global challenges related to climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainable development, the importance of Norway spruce and other tree species will only continue to grow.

More Interesting Information

Here are a few more interesting facts about Norway spruce:

  1. Origin and Distribution: Norway spruce is native to northern and central Europe, and is found throughout the region, from the Arctic Circle to the Alps. The tree has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America, where it is now widely cultivated for timber production.
  2. Longevity: Norway spruce is a long-lived tree, with some specimens known to live for over 600 years. The oldest recorded Norway spruce is thought to be over 950 years old, and is located in the Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia.
  3. Climate Change: Norway spruce is considered a climate-sensitive species, as its growth and distribution are affected by changes in temperature and precipitation. Climate change is expected to have a significant impact on Norway spruce forests in the coming decades, with some areas predicted to experience declines in growth and productivity.
  4. Folklore: Norway spruce has a rich cultural history, and has been the subject of many myths and legends. In Germanic mythology, the tree was believed to be the World Tree, which connected the three realms of the cosmos. In other cultures, the tree was associated with fertility, healing, and protection.
  5. Medicinal Properties: Norway spruce has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, and has been found to have a range of health benefits. The tree's needles contain high levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants, which can help to boost the immune system and fight off infections. The tree's resin is also used as a natural remedy for coughs, colds, and other respiratory ailments.
  6. Invasive Species: While Norway spruce is native to Europe, it has become an invasive species in some areas of North America. The tree was introduced to the continent in the 1800s and has since spread rapidly, outcompeting native vegetation and altering local ecosystems.
  7. Christmas Tree Tradition: Norway spruce is a popular Christmas tree species in Europe, and is commonly used for this purpose in countries such as Germany, Austria, and Sweden. The tradition of using evergreen trees as Christmas trees is thought to have originated in Germany in the 16th century.
  8. National Symbol: Norway spruce is the national tree of Norway, and is an important cultural symbol in the country. The tree is featured on the country's coat of arms, and is often used as a decorative element in traditional Norwegian architecture.
  9. Wildlife Habitat: Norway spruce provides important habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and mammals. The tree's dense foliage and conical shape provide shelter and nesting sites for birds, while its needles and buds are a food source for a range of insects and small mammals.
  10. Economic Importance: Norway spruce is one of the most important tree species in Europe in terms of economic value. The wood is used for a wide range of commercial purposes, including construction, furniture-making, and paper production. In some countries, such as Austria and Sweden, the timber industry is a major part of the economy.
In conclusion, Norway spruce is a versatile and important tree species that has played a significant role in human culture and history. From its ecological and commercial uses to its cultural significance and symbolic value, the tree has had a lasting impact on the world around us. As we continue to face environmental challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss, the importance of preserving and protecting Norway spruce and other tree species will only continue to grow.


Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map