Picea abies, the Norway spruce or European spruce, is a species of spruce native to Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. It has branchlets that typically hang downwards, and the largest cones of any spruce, 9–17 cm (3 1⁄2–6 3⁄4 in) long. It is very closely related to the Siberian spruce (Picea obovata), which replaces it east of the Ural Mountains, and with which it hybridises freely. The Norway spruce is widely planted for its wood, and is the species used as the main Christmas tree in several countries around the world. It was the first gymnosperm to have its genome sequenced. The Latin specific epithet abies means “fir-like”.
Norway spruce is a large, fast-growing evergreen coniferous tree growing 35–55 m (115–180 ft) tall and with a trunk diameter of 1 to 1.5 m (39 to 59 in). It can grow fast when young, up to 1 m (3 ft) per year for the first 25 years under good conditions, but becomes slower once over 20 m (65 ft) tall. The shoots are orange-brown and glabrous (hairless). The leaves are needle-like with blunt tips, 12–24 mm (15⁄32–15⁄16 in) long, quadrangular in cross-section (not flattened), and dark green on all four sides with inconspicuous stomatal lines. The seed cones are 9–17 cm (3 1⁄2–6 3⁄4 in) long (the longest of any spruce), and have bluntly to sharply triangular-pointed scale tips. They are green or reddish, maturing brown 5–7 months after pollination. The seeds are black, 4–5 mm (5⁄32–3⁄16 in) long, with a pale brown 15-millimetre (5⁄8-inch) wing.
The tallest measured Norway spruce is 62.26 m (204 ft) tall and grows near Ribnica na Pohorju, Slovenia.
The Norway spruce is used in forestry for (softwood) timber, and paper production.
The tree is the source of spruce beer, which was once used to prevent and even cure scurvy. This high vitamin C content can be consumed as a tea from the shoot tips or even eaten straight from the tree when light green and new in spring.
It is esteemed as a source of tonewood by stringed-instrument makers. One form of the tree called Haselfichte [de] (Hazel-spruce) grows in the European Alps and has been recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. This form was used by Stradivarius for instruments.
Norway spruce shoot tips have been used in traditional Austrian medicine internally (as syrup or tea) and externally (as baths, for inhalation, as ointments, as resin application or as tea) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, locomotor system, gastrointestinal tract and infections.