Picea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce) description


Subalpine forest dominated by Picea engelmannii within the Entiat Valley, Washington [C.J. Earle, 2004.07.02].


A pair of mature, open-grown timber within the White Cloud Mtns. of Idaho [C.J. Earle, 2017.08.22].


A “skirted” tree within the Medication Bow Mtns. of Wyoming. The low “skirt” spends the winter buried inside the snowpack; the naked stems simply above are zones the place blowing ice crystals, bouncing alongside the snowpack, abrade and kill any uncovered foliage; and the foliage farther above the snow floor is protected against winter abrasion by formation of rime [C.J. Earle, 2006.06.30].


A krummholz mat of P. engelmannii containing a small krummholz Pinus albicaulis; Golden Horn, Washington [C.J. Earle, 2015.07.05].


Krummholz mats displaying frost injury from the prior winter; Center Tiffany Mtn., Washington [C.J. Earle, 2000.07.21].


A really intensive krummholz mat, largely propagated by way of layering, within the Medication Bow Mtns. of Wyoming. The foliage reveals some frost injury from the prior winter. The background forest, all the way in which to the horizon, consists virtually solely of Abies lasiocarpa and Picea engelmannii [C.J. Earle, 2006.07.01].


Two successive years of heavy cone crops on a mature tree at Tiffany Mtn., Washington [C.J. Earle, 2003.08.16].


Younger, fertile seed and pollen cones. Seed cones on a tree usually develop into fertile earlier than the pollen cones, as a protection towards self-fertilization [C.J. Earle, 2006.07.03].


A squirrel created this cross-sectional view of a ripe seed cone [C.J. Earle, 2006.06.30].


Shade foliage in P. engelmannii just isn’t 2-ranked, however assumes this “brushed” look in distinction to the morphology of solar foliage proven within the above picture [C.J. Earle, 2006.07.04].


Bark on a tree about 70 cm diameter [C.J. Earle, 2013.07.24].


Seedling about 10 cm tall, most likely no less than 2 years previous [C.J. Earle, 2017.08.19].


Some specimens are exceptionally glaucous, and have given rise to cultivars offered as “blue spruce” (which is a special species, Picea pungens) within the horticultural commerce [C.J. Earle, 2003.07.04].


Though often considered a tree of the excessive mountains, P. engelmannii has an alternate position as a riparian forest tree. It’s properly tailored for this area of interest on account of its tolerance of very moist soils and low temperatures (chilly air drainage being a consider many mountain valleys) and its relative intolerance for hearth: riparian forests are seldom burned. This small riparian stand is within the Okanogan Mountains of Washington [C.J. Earle, 2003.08.15].


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Conservation status

Picea engelmannii

Parry ex Engelmann 1863

Widespread names

Engelmann spruce, silver spruce, white spruce, mountain spruce (Peattie 1950), épinette d’Engelmann (Canadian French), pino actual (Spanish) (Taylor 1993).

Taxonomic notes

Two subspecies, engelmannii (described right here) and mexicana. Synonymy for var. engelmannii (Taylor 1993):

  • Picea glauca (Moench) Voss subsp. engelmannii (Parry ex Engelmann) T.M.C. Taylor;
  • P. columbiana Lemmon;
  • P. engelmannii var. glabra Goodman.

There are two hybrids, or nothospecies, the place P. engelmannii overlaps with associated spruces. The hybrid with P. glauca to type Albert or inside spruce, P. × albertiana S. Br. (syn. P. glauca var. albertiana (S. Br.) Sarg. 1919) (Taylor 1993). Within the Chilliwack River Valley of British Columbia, P. engelmannii hybridizes with P. sitchensis; the hybrid has not been formally described. The realm is close to sea stage and the Fraser Valley, but comes proper out of the center of the North Cascades. This hybrid might happen elsewhere, the place the species’ ranges are contiguous (such because the Federation Forest/Crystal Mountain space of Washington) however has not been seen but (e mail, Robert Van Pelt, 1999.07.22). All three species (P. engelmannii, glauca, and sitchensis) hybridize in a zone within the inside Skeena River valley in British Columbia (Sutton et al. 1994).


Bushes to 60 m tall and 200 cm dbh, with a narrowly conical crown. Bark grey to reddish brown. Twigs stout, yellow-brown, finely pubescent, sometimes glabrous. Buds orange-brown, 3-6 mm, apex rounded. Leaves 1.6-3(3.5) cm lengthy, 4-angled in cross part, inflexible, blue-green, bearing stomates on all surfaces, apex sharp-pointed. Seed cones violet or deep purple, ripening buff-brown, 3-7(8) cm lengthy; scales diamond-shaped to elliptic, widest above center, 13-20 × 9-16 mm, versatile, margin at apex irregularly toothed to erose, apex extending 3-Eight mm past seed-wing impression. 2n=24 (Taylor 1993).

P. × albertiana has unusually outstanding leaf bases, cones practically as broad as lengthy, cone scales acute and broader than lengthy, and an unusually slim crown (Taylor 1993). The shoots are pubescent and the leaves barely longer (1.5-2 cm, vs. 0.8-1.Three cm for P. glauca) (Farjon 1990).

Distribution and Ecology

Canada: Alberta, British Columbia; USA: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico; as krummholz on the alpine timberline (Taylor 1993). Hardy to Zone 3 (chilly hardiness restrict between -39.9°C and -34.4°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

P. × albertiana happens primarily in Canada: British Columbia (widespread) and southwest Alberta, with a couple of collections in far southern Yukon; and in USA: western Montana, Idaho, and northeastern Washington, with a couple of collections in far northwestern Wyoming and inside southeastern Alaska (2020 assessment of knowledge from the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria).

Distribution information from USGS (1999). Factors plotted as icons characterize remoted or approximate places.

Picea engelmannii generally finds its area of interest inside one among 4 ecological settings. On the lowest elevation, it’s a riparian tree with associates comparable to Abies grandis, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Larix occidentalis, Populus balsamifera subsp. trichocarpa, and Populus tremuloides. It might be that its capability to develop at these low elevations is because of chilly air drainage, because it usually solely happens at these websites in confined valleys in shut proximity to excessive mountains. At montane elevations, it’s generally a secondary part of conifer-dominated forests that usually have a predominance of Pseudotsuga menziesii but additionally include many different species; I’ve counted as many as 14 co-occurring conifer species in forests on the jap slopes of the Cascades in Washington, yielding some peculiar associations, comparable to Pinus ponderosa over Taxus brevifolia. At subalpine elevations, P. engelmannii is among the two codominants, together with Abies lasiocarpa, of the spruce-fir forest kind described by Oosting and Reed (1952); this forest accounts for almost all of the species’ distribution, particularly within the Rocky Mountains. Lastly, it’s a widespread timberline species all through its vary, typically persisting to larger elevations than another conifer. Probably the most curious elements of its timberline incidence is the phenomenon of “touring” krummholz, first described from Niwot Ridge, Colorado by Marr (1977) with estimates of price of motion derived (utilizing radiocarbon) by Benedict (1984). On this course of, a krummholz tree layers and grows in its personal lee whereas desiccation mortality attributable to windblown ice (a phenomenon detailed by Hadley and Smith [1983]) causes the tree’s loss of life on the windward aspect. Because of this, the whole plant slowly strikes downwind, leaving a path of lifeless wooden. I’ve seen this phenomenon at a number of websites within the Rocky Mountains and in addition at Cedar Breaks in Utah.

Massive tree

The biggest tree, the North Joffre Spruce in British Columbia, is 220 cm dbh and 41 m tall. A tree named the Straightforward Move Tower rising alongside the North Cascades Freeway (Washington Route 20) close to the Straightforward Move Trailhead is 67.7 m tall and 169 cm dbh (Robert Van Pelt e-mail 2004.02.04). Fairly a couple of comparably tall timber develop within the neighborhood. A bigger tree from the Payette Lake (Idaho) at 63 m3 had the most important quantity ever recorded for this species, however fell sufferer to bark beetles (e mail, Robert Van Pelt, 1999.07.22).


Tree FCC 23 in central Colorado had a crossdated age of 911 years (Brown et al. 1995, cited in RMTRR 2006). Additionally, a crossdated age of 852 years for specimen FCC 19, collected in 1994(?) from a stand close to the alpine timberline on the headwaters of Idiot Creek in Fraser Experimental Forest, Colorado. Additionally, a crossdated age of 760 years for a specimen from close to Peyto Glacier in Alberta collected by B.H. Luckman (Brown et al. 1995). I imagine this was from a residing tree collected within the late 1980s or early 1990s.


Luckman et al. (1984) report on work within the Canadian Rockies. I ready a chronology for the Medication Bow Mountains of Wyoming (Earle 1993), and quite a few inhabitants research exist.


This species is continuously harvested for timber and is reasonably standard for soundboards of stringed devices.

Engelmann spruce has been the second hottest choice for the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree, getting used 11 occasions (as of 2020) for the reason that custom started in 1964. In democratic spirit, specimens have come from states all through the species’ vary.


Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir type probably the most widespread forest associations within the Rocky Mountains. They are often seen, for instance, in all Rocky Mountain Nationwide Parks from Jasper in Canada to Rocky Mountain in Colorado. In addition they type a dominant forest kind in jap North Cascades Nationwide Park and the Pasayten Wilderness in Washington. The southernmost Engelmann spruce stand within the U.S. will be discovered atop the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona; this inhabitants is now referred to subsp. mexicana (Taylor and Patterson 1980).


The primary botanical description of this species seems within the partaking narrative “Ascent of Pike’s Peak, July 1st, 1862” by C. C. Parry. It consists of the primary detailed description of Pinus flexilis and the preliminary report of P. engelmannii, stating “My consideration having been notably directed to this species by Dr. Engelmann, I turned quickly happy, in pursuing the investigation, that this was the truth is a single undescribed species, showing underneath completely different types in keeping with soil, altitude and publicity; to which, accordingly, I’ve ventured to affix the title of its precise discoverer, calling it Abies Engelmanni.” Engelmann, the editor of the Transactions of the St. Louis Academy of Science, revealed Parry’s letter and later in the identical quantity (Engelmann 1863) supplied the species with a correct botanical description, and positioned it within the appropriate genus.


Benedict, J. B. 1984. Charges of tree‐island migration, Colorado Rocky Mountains, USA. Ecology 65(3):820-823.

Earle, Christopher J. 1993. Forest dynamics in a forest-tundra ecotone, Medication Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Ph.D. dissertation, College of Washington, Seattle.

Engelmann, G. 1863. Picea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm., sp. nov. Trans. St. Louis Acad. Sci. 2:212. Primarily based on Abies engelmannii Parry in Trans. St. Louis Acad. Sci. 2:122 [nom. nud.].

Farjon, Aljos. 1990. Pinaceae: drawings and descriptions of the genera Abies, Cedrus, Pseudolarix, Keteleeria, Nothotsuga, Tsuga, Cathaya, Pseudotsuga, Larix and Picea. Königstein: Koeltz Scientific Books.

Hadley, J. L. and W. Ok. Smith. 1983. Affect of wind publicity on needle desiccation and mortality for timberline conifers in Wyoming, USA. Arctic and Alpine Analysis 15(1):127-135.

Luckman, B. H., L. A. Jozsa, and P. J. Murphy. 1984. Dwelling seven-hundred-year-old Picea engelmannii and Pinus albicaulis within the Canadian Rockies. Arctic and Alpine Analysis 16(4):419-442.

Marr, John W. 1977. The event and motion of tree islands close to the higher restrict of tree progress within the southern Rocky Mountains. Ecology 58:1159-1164.

Oosting, H. J., and J. F. Reed. 1952. Virgin spruce‐fir of the Medication Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Ecological Monographs 22(2):69-91.

Peattie, Donald Culross. 1950. A pure historical past of western timber. New York: Bonanza.

Sutton, B. C. S., S. C. Pritchard, J. R. Gawley, C. H. Newton, and G. Ok. Kiss. 1994. Evaluation of Sitka spruce–inside spruce introgression in British Columbia utilizing cytoplasmic and nuclear DNA probes. Canadian Journal of Forest Analysis 24(2):278-285.

Taylor, R. J. and T. F. Patterson. 1980. Biosystematics of Mexican spruce species and populations. Taxon 29 (4): 421-469.

Taylor, Ronald J. 1993. Sections on Picea and Tsuga. Flora of North America Editorial Committee (eds.): Flora of North America North of Mexico, Vol. 2. Oxford College Press. Out there at, accessed 2020.11.26.

See additionally

Burns and Honkala 1990.

Elwes and Henry 1906-1913 on the Biodiversity Heritage Library. This sequence of volumes, privately printed, gives among the most partaking descriptions of conifers ever revealed. Though they solely deal with species cultivated within the U.Ok. and Eire, and the taxonomy is a bit dated, nonetheless these accounts are thorough, treating such subjects as species description, vary, varieties, exceptionally previous or tall specimens, exceptional timber, and cultivation. Regardless of being over a century previous, they’re typically correct, and are illustrated with some exceptional pictures and lithographs.

FEIS database.

LaRoi, G. H. and J. R. Dugle. 1968. A scientific and genecological research of Picea glauca and P. engelmannii, utilizing paper chromatography of needle extracts. Canadian Journal of Botany 46:649-687.

Sargent (1898) gives an exceptionally detailed description of this species, with a superb illustration.




The species is prone to drought, hearth, and a wide range of pathogens. These timber within the North Cascades of Washington have been killed in an intensive bark beetle epidemic that preferentially killed P. engelmannii whereas sparing related conifer species. The realm skilled a high-severity burn a couple of years later [C.J. Earle, 2003.08.16].

This department on a tree excessive within the Medication Bow Mountains of Wyoming is roofed with younger, pollen-speckled seed cones and ripe pollen cones [C.J. Earle, 2006.07.01].

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