SPRUCE (Picea Abies)

It is an evergreen tree species paticularly common in the Alps between 1000 and 1900 metres. The plant can exceed 40 meters in height.

It has a gray-brown bark with a brown-rust lower layer; this ageing tends to flak. The branches appear brown-reddish and from this characteristics comes the common name of the tree. The leaves have the shape of sharp needles and are arranged in a spiral all around the branches; the cones are pendulous.

It is commonly called “Spruce”. The generic name came from the latin “pix” which means resin or pitch, substance produced in large quantities by these trees.

The species is monoecious which means male and female flowers on the same plant, but in separate organs. Flowering occurs in spring.  Spruce pollen is able to move over long distances by wind.

Most spruce seeds are produced with cross fertilization, between nerby trees or between distant individuals. Only a small part of them originates from self-impollination; usually they fall close to the mother plant, but some can disperse over long distances.

The spruce has a rapid growth from the juvenile phase; this then tends to slow down. It is a very Long-lived species that can easily reach the century of live; it is not rare to come across even in specimens of over 500 years of age.

The species goes through a fairly long juvenile period which it doeas not produce flowers and seeds. The sexual maturity is reached around the 20-30 years of age.

The roots are quite superficial and rarely penetrate the soil beyond the meter of depth.

The spruce can grow in dry and humid habitats; it resists very well to very rigid temperatures. The best conditions of growth occur on deep and rich soils. It can form pure or mixed populations with other coinfers or broad-leaved trees. The spruce woods have the characteristic to perfume very intensely.

Spruce in Europe is one oh the most important conifers from the economic point of view; its long fibers make it appreciated by the pulp and paper industry. Tannin and resin are also obtained from the plant. The wood is soft, easy to work, and therefore widely used in the construction of non valuable furniture.

The species has a long history of cultivation and has been sown and planted very widely since the mid-nineteenth century. It is often used fir reforestation and planted for ornamental purposes in parks and grdens, even at low altitudes.

It is one of the most used species for Christmas trees.