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Blue Spruce
Picea pungens
The Colorado blue spruce, or blue spruce, is an attractive tree
often used for Christmas trees or as ornamentals, particularly
in the eastern United States and Europe. It is the official state
tree of both Colorado and Utah. The species generally reaches
a height of 65-115 feet at maturity with a diameter of 2-3 feet.
It has a narrow, pyramidal shape and cone-shaped crown.
As trees become older, they often take on a more irregular
appearance. While blue spruce grows relatively slowly, it
is long-lived and may reach ages of 600-800 years.

Leaves (needles) are 1-1 1/2 inches long on lower branches
but somewhat shorter on upper branches. They are 4-sided and
have a very sharp point on the end. It is this point which gives
the species its name "pungens", from the Latin word for sharp
as in puncture wound. Needles are generally dull bluish-gray
to silvery blue and emit a resinous odor when crushed. Some
trees have a more distinct bluish-white or silvery-white foliage.
The cultivated variety 'glauca' is noted for this type of coloration.
Nursery managers also select for "shiners" which demonstrate
this very desirable characteristic. Needles occur on small peg-like
structures on the twig called sterigmata. The sterigmata persist
on the twigs after needles have fallen, which is usually after
the third or fourth year.

Both male and female flowers (strobili) occur in the same tree,
although in different locations. Pollination occurs in late spring
and cones mature in one season. In the fall, cones are 2-4 inches
long and turn chestnut brown with stiff, flattened scales. Cones
generally persist on the tree for one to two years after seed fall.

The bark is thin becoming moderately thick with age. It is
somewhat pale gray in small flattened scales when young,
then turns reddish brown and furrowed with age.

Blue spruce is moderately shade tolerant and grows best in
deep, rich, gravely soils, often along stream banks and other
sites with high moisture levels. It usually does not occur in
large stands but is found in small groves or in association with
Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce or ponderosa
pine. A deep penetrating root system makes the species
resistant to being blown over.

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Blue Spruce Photo

Blue spruce is finding increasing
popularity as a Christmas tree as
a result of its symmetrical form
and attractive blue foliage. The
species has an excellent natural
shape and requires little shearing.
Additionally, needle retention is
among the best for the spruces.
Its popularity as an ornamental
leads many consumers to use
blue spruce as a living Christmas
tree, to be planted after the
holiday season.

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