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What Is a Weeping Spruce?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2014
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The weeping spruce, also commonly known as the Brewer spruce, is a coniferous tree native to a small area of the northwestern United States. It is distinguished by its branches, which hang vertically, creating a “weeping” effect. The weeping spruce is a fairly hardy tree capable of growing at high altitudes and in harsh weather conditions. While the wood of this tree is generally considered to be of little commercial worth, the tree itself is valued by many for its ornamental qualities.

Scientists classify the weeping spruce as an endemic species. This means that it only occurs naturally in a single, limited region. The native region of the weeping spruce is confined to a small area of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon. Despite the fact that the tree is only indigenous to this region, however, it has been successfully introduced in other parts of the world, particularly Europe.

Like many conifers, the weeping spruce comprises a fairly narrow, brownish-gray central trunk and branches that are adorned with green, needle-like foliage and, at certain times of the year, scaly brown cones. The unique arrangement of the tree’s branches sets it apart from its relatives. Rather than projecting horizontally from the tree’s trunk, its branches droop down in a vertical fashion, a trait which suggests “weeping,” and which is responsible for the species’ moniker. Mature specimens can reach heights of more than 130 feet (approximately 40 meters).

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In general, the weeping spruce is a fairly resilient tree, a fact that is perhaps unsurprising when its native habitat is taken into consideration. It primarily inhabits mountain slopes, and is capable of thriving at altitudes of 2,000 to 7,000 feet (approximately 610 to 2,134 meters). The tree can tolerate dry soil during the summer, and its downward-hanging branches prevent snow from building up on it and exerting stress on its frame during the winter.

While the arrangement and abundance of a weeping spruce’s branches may lend the tree visual interest, they also tend to cause its wood to be marred by many knotholes. Consequently, the tree is not generally sought after as a source of lumber, particularly lumber to be used for decorative purposes. Nevertheless, many nature enthusiasts are drawn to the tree’s unusual appearance. As a result, it is a prized ornamental feature in many gardens across the United States as well as parts of Northern and Western Europe.

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