When you see a tall evergreen with drooping branches in eastern North America, chances are it’s a Norway spruce.
Native to Europe, Picea abies is cultivated widely for landscaping and is now naturalized from Connecticut to Michigan. Elsewhere the trees must be planted but they do quite well, tolerating more heat and humidity than other conifers.
Norway spruces are easy to identify because their drooping branches resemble the fringed sleeves on a cowboy jacket and their cones are long and thin with papery scales.
In Germany this species became the first Christmas tree. In fact, it’s the tree that adorns New York’s Rockefeller Center, London’s Trafalgar Square, Edinburgh’s town square and Washington DC’s Union Square right now.
Every year since 1947 the City of Oslo has given a Norway spruce as a Christmas tree to those four cities in gratitude for U.S. and U.K. help during World War II.
Here’s Rockefeller Center’s tree on the 40th anniversary, Christmas Eve 1987.
Click on the city names above to read about these beautiful Norwegian gifts.
(photos of spruce and Christmas tree from Wikimedia Commons. photo of cones by Randi Hausken, Creative Commons license on Flickr. Click on the images to see their originals)