Norway spruce (NS)

Picea abies

Native range

Native to mountain areas of central and southern Europe, and most of eastern and northern Europe.

Provenance choice

Provenances from eastern Europe (e.g. Romania, southern Poland) are generally preferable.

Site requirements

Accommodating with regard to climatic conditions as long as annual rainfall exceeds 850 mm although can grow well on moist soils in drier regions. It is cold hardy but suffers from exposure, air pollution, and is vulnerable to late spring frosts at a young age (although less than Sitka spruce). It is an early successional species that is moderately shade tolerant. Best growth on moist, sufficiently aerated soils of poor to medium fertility such as sandy loams. Suffers from heather check and nitrogen deficiency on very nutrient poor soils.

Pests and pathogens

Green spruce aphid (Elatobium) damage on Norway spruce is less common than on Sitka spruce and usually less severe. However, Norway spruce suffers from a disorder known as top-dying which is of unknown cause. It is relatively common and can be a significant cause of decline and death, especially on the eastern side of Britain. Elsewhere in Europe, the larger European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) is a significant pest on Norway spruce, killing trees as a result of mass beetle attack.

Apart from being affected by Heterobasidion (Fomes root and butt rot), Norway spruce is also highly susceptible to other decay fungi such as Stereum, which enter via wounds such as those made during thinning and extraction, and can cause serious levels of degradation.

Use

It is a lower volume producer than Sitka spruce on equivalent sites. The relatively slow early height growth made this a traditional nurse species for broadleaves in much of eastern Britain. Norway spruce is less tolerant of a windy climate than Sitka spruce, while its vulnerability to drought suggest that it will remain a minor species under climate change scenarios.