Native Trees & Shrubs - Engelmann Spruce

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Growth Characteristics: Engelmann spruce is a large tree, averaging 30 inches in diameter and 90 feet in height. The crown in pyramidal, with the top somewhat rounded and limbs extending to near the ground. Branches are in whorls. . The trees grow rather slowly, reaching mature size in about 150 years, but may live 400 or more years.

Leaves: Needle-like, about 1 inch long, blue-green in color, stiff, sharp-pointed, and square in cross-section. They arise spirally from the twigs, with those on the bottom side tending to grow upward. Buds are small, up to ¼ inch in length and pale brown in color.

Stems: Twigs are stout, rather shiny, and orange-brown in color. They are covered with peg-like projections (called sterigmata) or leaf bases after leaves have fallen. This causes the twig to feel and appear rough. New growth is sometimes covered with fine short hairs that are visible with a magnifying lens. The bark is thin, seldom exceeding ½ inch in thickness. The surface is comprised of loosely attached red-brown scales that are generally scattered and not divided into ridges and furrows. The wood is good quality, very light in weight, soft, straight grained, and yellowish in color.

Ecological Adaptions:

Engelmann spruce is found in some of the highest and coldest forest environments in the western United States, characterized by long, cold winters with heavy snowpack and short, cool summers. It extends down to lower elevations along stream bottoms where cold air flows down the valley and collects in localized frost pockets. Generally found on moist and cool sites, but at timberline it may occur on somewhat dry sites. At middle elevations, pure stands are usually found on alluvial terraces, wet benches, bottomlands, slopes with seeps or cold north or east aspects. It occurs on all aspects at timberline, and grows in clumps called tree islands.