Characteristics of Blue Spruce Tree (Picea pungens) in the Wild

Picea pungens
The blue spruce or Colorado spruce (Picea pungens) is a species of evergreen tree native to North America and is found in USDA growth zones 1 through 7. Its natural range includes Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

The blue spruce has been widely introduced elsewhere with USDA 1-7 climates and is often grown as an ornamental and bonsai tree in many places far from its natural habitat.

The blue spruce tree has a shallow root system that penetrates only 6.4 cm of soil during the first year. Despite the shallow roots, the blue spruce can withstand strong winds.

This tree grows on gentle upland and sub-irrigated slopes, in tributary drainage, and the lower northern slopes. Blue spruce always grows naturally in soils that are in the order Mollisols, and soils will also be in orders of histosols and inceptisols to a lesser extent.

Blue spruce only grows naturally in cold and humid climate zones where the annual rainfall is 460-610 mm. Most commonly grown in Colorado and the Southwest with average annual temperatures ranging from 4-6 °C. The tree is very tough, it can withstand very low temperatures (-40 °C).

Currently, several blue spruce cultivars have received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, namely:

  • Picea pungens ‘Glauca Globosa’
  • Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’
  • Picea pungens ‘Glauca Jean’s Dilly’
  • Picea pungens ‘Glauca Pendula’
  • Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’
  • Picea pungens ‘Koster’
  • Picea pungens ‘Baby Blue Eyes’
  • Picea pungens ‘Baby Blue’
THE HISTORY OF THE BLUE SPRUCE TREE

Navajo and Keres Native Americans used this tree as a traditional medicinal tree and ceremonial item, and twigs were given as gifts to bring good luck.

In folk medicine, needle infusion is used to treat colds and soothe the stomach. This liquid is also used externally to treat rheumatic pain.

 

Characteristics of Blue Spruce Leaf

Picea pungens Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/rwr

The leaves are waxy gray-green, 2-3 cm long, arranged radially on upward-curving shoots.

 

Characteristics of Blue Spruce Fruit

Picea pungens Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/justinaceae

The cones are pale brown and about 10 cm long. Male cones are found throughout the tree, while female cones are found at the top of the tree.

 

Characteristics of Blue Spruce Tree

Picea pungens Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/julianjavier8

In the wild, the blue spruce grows to a height of 20 meters, but when planted in the garden or the yard of the house it is no more than 15 meters high and 5 meters wide.

The blue spruce is a conical evergreen conifer with dense horizontal branches. The bark is gray, scaly, and the young branches are yellowish-brown.

 

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