Norway spruce

Norway spruce, conifer of the pine family, which can reach over fifty meters in height and centuries old.

Also known as:
Christmas tree
European spruce

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Fijnspar, foto: Ivar Leidus - CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Norway spruce needles are toxic to pets. In addition, the sharp points can puncture the intestinal wall. The water in the container of the Christmas tree is also toxic. Do not place a food or water bowl near the Christmas tree because needles can get into the bowl.
  • Norway spruce needles are not toxic to humans.

Norway spruce(Picea abies), a conifer of the pine family (Pinaceae), which can reach over fifty meters in height and centuries old. European spruce is native to mountainous areas of Europe. Norway spruce is widespread in the UK, having been planted for forestry in the 1800s.
The Norway spruce as a Christmas tree averages one and a half meters in height. Christmas tree producers harvest seeds from popular pines, and after planting they can take up to four years to reach a height of just 25 cm. From this point, the saplings are then planted in fields and allowed to grow until harvested. A lot of the trees are delivered with root balls.
Christmas trees with root balls are best treated like a very large houseplant. Plant the tree in a large pot and keep the root ball moist with water enriched with liquid plant food.
If the intention is to plant the Christmas tree later in the garden, the top branch for the peak should not be cut off.
Plant the tree in the garden when it is not freezing and let the tree get used to the outside temperature slowly first in an unheated garage or shed.


recognize cause brown needles spruce
Dwarf alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’) turns brown on one side, photo: Benny Demandt

Spruce turns brown on shady sides, sometimes spider mites appear on the branches and minute black mites run across the branches: the Spruce spider mite (Oligonychus ununguis).

recognize mealybug on Norway spruce
White fluf on Norway spruce, photo: Amada44 – CC BY 3.0

White fluff develops on and among the spruce needles; the needles yellow and fall off. Honeydew causes the needles to become sticky: Douglas Fir Adelgid (Gilletteella cooleyi).

Galls on Norway spruce
Galls among the needles of Norway spruce, photo: Immanuel Giel – CC BY-SA 3.0

Galls form on the young shoots. These can grow to three cm in size. The young needles are stunted in their growth, lose their luster and fall off: Pineapple Gall Adelgid (Sacchiphantes abietis).

Spruce needles yellow, dry up, turn brown and fall off: Green spruce aphid (Elatobium abietinum).

Pine needles in the top of the tree are yellowing, star-shaped patterns can be seen behind the bark; no sawdust visible: Six toothed bark beetle (Pityogenes chalcographus).

Fungi & diseases

Recognize rust on Norway spruce, Christmas tree
Yellowing spruce needles of Norway spruce, photo: Tappinen – CC BY-SA 3.0

Shoots with young needles yellow: spruce needle rust (Chrysomyxa).


Norway spruce lags in growth, tree shows slender, lean form: potassium deficiency.

Recognize jelly drops
Jelly drops, photo: Daryl Thompson – CC BY-SA 3.0

Purple button-shaped mushrooms on the dead wood or stump of a felled Norway spruce: Jelly drops (Ascocoryne sarcoides).

Needles turn brown, twigs wither. If this occurs on the shady side of the plant, and it is a dwarf spruce, there is a good chance that the infestation is the work of the Spruce spider mite. Sunburn can also cause brown spots, as can dryness.
Bare, but still living twigs can re-sprout(backbudding, sprouting on old wood) but unfortunately this is rare.

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