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A tree over 100 ft high in the wild, forming in a young state a densely branched, very leafy, pyramidal tree, with the shape of the common spruce, but smaller-leaved and more slenderly branched; branches stiffly horizontal; young shoots furnished with short, erect, bristle-like hairs. Leaves arranged mostly at and above the horizontal plane, the upper ones appressed to and hiding the twig; they are dark shining green, 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. long, bluntish at the apex, quadrangular in section, with one to four lines of stomata on each surface. Cones of a beautiful purple when young, ultimately brown, 11⁄2 to 3 in. long, 3⁄4 to 1 in. wide; cylindrical, slender, and pointed when young; scales entire at the margin.
Native of the Caucasus and N.E. Anatolia; introduced in 1839. This is undoubtedly one of the most attractive of all the spruces, its foliage being of a brilliant dark green, the habit neat and dense. It has the shortest leaves of all spruces, except, perhaps, some of the pigmy forms of other species. Near London, and in localities with a deficient rainfall, it is much to be preferred to P. abies, although slower-growing. In a small state it is one of the daintiest looking of spruces; and older, when bearing a crop of its richly coloured cones, it is very ornamental.
The largest specimens in Britain are slightly over 100 ft high, and the largest girths 10 to 11 ft. But Alan Mitchell notes that the oldest trees, which are mostly 100 or slightly more years old, have ceased to grow or are dying back.
specimens: Mosses Wood, Surrey, 118 × 103⁄4 ft (1984); Petworth House, Sussex, 111 × 83⁄4 ft (1983); Westonbirt, Glos., West Specimen Avenue, 99 × 10 ft (1983); Bowood, Wilts., 121 × 101⁄2 ft (1984); Stourhead, Wilts., 108 × 103⁄4 ft (1980); Stanage Park, Powys, pl. 1840, 111 × 103⁄4 ft (1978); Benmore, Argyll, 121 × 103⁄4 ft (1978); Cortachy Castle, Angus, pl. 1873, 106 × 121⁄2 ft and 92 × 123⁄4 ft (1981); Monteviot, Roxb., 74 × 121⁄2 ft (1983); Culcreuch Castle, Stirlings., 111 × 111⁄4 ft (1894); Cultoquhey, nr Crieff, Perths., 98 × 111⁄4 ft (1985); Rossie Priory, Perths., 98 × 111⁄4 ft (1985).
† cv. ‘Aurea’. – Young growths golden, later a. There may be two or more clones under this name.
Young shoots golden yellow, very handsome. Raised in Germany, before 1873. There are examples in the National Pinetum at Bedgebury. A tree at Vernon Holme in Kent reached 60 ft but is dying back at the top.