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Home  > Tree Identification  > Blue Spruce Tree

Blue Spruce
Colorado Blue Spruce
Colorado Spruce

Blue Spruce tree-lgPicea pungens

Native to the western United States, Blue Spruce is one of the most commonly planted conifers throughout the country. Desirable characteristics of Blue Spruce include its cold hardiness, its symmetrical pyramidal form, and its distinctive silver-blue needles. The popularity of Blue Spruce has led to the development of numerous cultivars that display certain forms, sizes, or needle color.

In its native habitat Blue Spruce is a slow-growing tree, often found along stream banks or moist canyon bottoms. This has led to the Blue Spruce also being referred to as Water Spruce. Blue Spruce is not limited to moist soils and can be found growing on mountain slopes as well. This tolerance to a variety of soil conditions has contributed to the popularity of Blue Spruce as an ornamental landscape tree.

The needles of Blue Spruce are about 1” long, stiff, and pointed at the tip. The color of the needles can range from silvery-blue to green. The needle coloration is a result of genetic variations from tree to tree.

Blue Spruce grows best when planted in full sun, but will tolerate light shade. Too much shade, however, may result in loss of the bluish hue, loss of foliage density, or branch dieback.

Blue Spruce tree will begin producing cones when they reach around 20 years of age. The cones are light brown, about 3” long, and produced in the upper branches of the tree.

It should be noted that the Blue Spruce is not a problem-free tree. The shallow root system often leads to trees being blown over in high winds. This usually happens in the spring or fall when soil moisture is highest.

When planted in areas of the country with high humidity two needle diseases commonly infect Blue Spruce trees. Cytospora Canker causes lower branches to die, and usually starts to damage trees after they have reached 15 - 20 years of age. Rhizosphera Needlecast infects the older needles of Blue Spruce causing premature needle loss and a thinning of the canopy.

In its native range the Western Spruce Budworm larvae will devour old needles in the early spring and then bore into the developing buds and defoliate the current years needles. Heavy, repeated attacks from Western Spruce Budworm can kill a Blue Spruce.

About 40 cultivars of Blue Spruce have been developed, targeting desirable needle coloration or certain canopy forms. Common Blue Spruce cultivars include:

'Argentea' Silvery white
'Aurea'  Golden yellow
'Bakeri' Deep bluish white, long-leaved
'Caerulea' Bluish white
'Compacta' Dwarf, compact, densely flattopped
'Glauca' Bluish green; collective name for all glaucous-leaved cultivars
'Glauca Pendula' Pendulous, bluish leaves, strongly sickleshaped
'Hoopsii' Dense, pyramidal; leaves very silvery
'Hunnewelliana' Dwarf, dense, pyramidal; leaves pale green
'Koster' Pyramidal, pendulous-branched, with main branches almost horizontal; leaves bluish white to silvery white
'Moerheimi' Pyramidal, slender, dense, compact; leaves deep blue
'Thomsen' Pyramidal; leaves whitish to silvery blue, long
'Viridis' Dull green

Blue Spruce is native to southern and western Wyoming, eastern Idaho, south to Utah, northern and eastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, to central Colorado. Isolated populations of Blue Spruce can also be found in north-central Montana.

Blue Spruce characteristics:

Common insect pests of Blue Spruce: Western Spruce Budworm; Spruce Needle Miner; Cooley Spruce Gall Adelgid; Pine Leaf Aphids; Green Spruce Aphid; White Pine Weevil; Spruce Beetle; Golden Buprestid; Pine Needle Scale; Pitch Mass Borer

Common disease pests of Blue Spruce: Cytospora Canker; Rhizosphera Needlecast; Phomopsis Tip Blight; Western Spruce Dwarf Mistletoe; Chrysomyxa Needle Rust; Yellow Witches' Broom

Form: Pyramidal

Fruit: 3” long, light brown cone

Growth Rate: Slow

Needles: About 1” long, stiff, pointed tip

Mature height: 60 - 100’

Preferred soil pH: 5.5 - 7.8

Summer foliage: Silver-blue to green

Tree Bark: Gray-brown, breaking into furrows and rounded ridges and only slightly scaly

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2 - 8

 

 

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