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What Is a Serbian Spruce?

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  • Written By: Ray Hawk
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2016
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The Serbian spruce, Picea omorika, is a coniferous evergreen tree discovered in 1875 and native to a small region of about 60 hectares (0.23 square miles) of the Drina River valley in southeastern Europe. The region covers part of the modern eastern area of the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a small section of western Serbia as of 2011. Since its discovery, the tree has been transplanted to many regions and is cultivated as an ornamental specimen because of its arching, up-sweeping branches that are thought to make it more effective at shedding heavy snowfall in the winter.

The branches of the Serbian spruce tend to form a spire-like pattern as they ascend towards the crown, and this, along with the upward curve of the branches, has made it one of the most popular among types of spruce trees cultivated around the world. In its native range in the limestone mountains where it grows, it can reach a height of 50 to 60 feet (15.24 to 18.28 meters), but it has a fairly narrow trunk unlike other spruce trees, so it seems to grow best when it is sheltered from strong winds. The tree also has flat needles with white bands on the ground facing side, unlike the typical four-sided needle shapes of spruce trees.

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Growing spruce trees of this strain require precise lighting conditions, as too much shade will tend to make them look thin and frail. The Serbian spruce is, however, hardy in several respects. Like most evergreens, it can tolerate a wide range of soil pH levels because acidic soils tend not to harm it. The Serbian spruce also has a tendency to be extremely drought-tolerant, so it can often be planted in urban areas where it has limited access to rainfall.

As of 2011, the species has shown little vulnerability to attack by most common pests and diseases. Some reports state that insects like aphids, mites, and scale may adversely affect its growth, but incidences of this are rare. Caring for spruce trees like the Serbian spruce that have been grown in the US state of Pennsylvania are a challenge, however, as they have been attacked there by the White Pine weevil which can disfigure the trees if not treated thoroughly.

Planting spruce trees often requires setting aside a large amount of space at the base of the trunk, as they tend to be rather wide with well-developed root systems. The Serbian spruce is a noticeably narrow tree, however, that makes it stand out from other evergreens. Its shape, unique needle color, and arc to the branches has let to it being widely used in botanical gardens throughout Europe. Its versatile adaptability to a wide range of soil types also aids in its growth in many regions, and it is believed to have once been widespread naturally throughout Europe prior to the Pleistocene era, over 2,500,000 years ago.

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