The Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) is an evergreen native to the South West Balkans. The tree can be recognized easily because its very narrow columnar shape with branches near the bottom of the tree hanging downwards while those at the top tipping upwards. Twigs are hairy. The Serbian spruce does not have the four-sided needles like most spruces. The needles are flat, glossy dark green at the top with two white stripes below. Hanging cones emerge violet purple but mature to yellowish brown. The tree was introduced in the Western part of Europe in 1881 and seeds seem to have arrived in the United States around the same time. This tree is very tolerant of industrial pollution and will grow on any site,wet or dry, extreme cold or heat. Sold as a Christmas tree.
Common name: Serbian Spruce, Servian Spruce
Scientific Name (family and order): Picea omorika (Pancic) Purkyne (Pinaceae, Pinales)
Species Origin: Bosnia-Herzegovina/Yugoslavia.
New Jersey Status: USDA Unreported
Habit: Medium to large tree 80’ tall. Narrow and spire-like in shape with short branches upswept at the tips and retained to the ground. This placement of the branches allows the tree to shed snow.
Habitat: Zones 4 – 7; on limestone.
Trunk/Stem: Bark purple brown cracking into square plates.
Leaves: Evergreen, needle-like but blunt tipped. Needles placed relatively sparsely. Needles long (3/4”) and flat (unusual for a spruce), glossy dark-green above with two bluish whitebands on underside (bicolored).
Flowers: Monoecious. Crimson male pollen cones are borne below new shoots while red female seed cones are confined to the uppermost branches where they become pendulous in shape.
Fruits and seeds: Cone narrowly teardrop-shaped, purple –brown down hanging 2 ½” long. Each cone is held on a curved stalk (peduncle) up to 2 ½ “ long. The cone scales are scallop in shape with smooth rounded tips.