Known botanically as Picea abies and more commonly as Norway spruce, the European spruce is a tall evergreen tree, with dark-green, needle leaves and long, scaly cones that turn brown when they mature. The European spruce occurs naturally on the European continent and has been introduced in North America and other parts of the world. These types of spruce trees grow best in cold, high elevation areas, but are able to adapt to different types of soils as long as they receive a good amount of moisture.
In many European countries, a large percentage of the historic forest ranges were devastated in the eighteenth century due to the high demand for timber required for the rapidly increasing number of industries. The situation got so out of hand that the European spruce has had to be reintroduced in some areas. Now most timber comes from specially managed artificial forests that are earmarked for planting spruce.
The main reason for growing spruce trees is for the timber which is useful for construction, papermaking, and manufacturing musical instruments. The European spruce is also popular as a garden plant and is particularly in demand as a Christmas tree. Since the end of the Second World War, it has become a tradition for Edinburgh, London, New York and Washington D.C. to receive European spruce trees at Christmas as a continuing gesture of thanks and goodwill from Oslo, Norway.
There are not too many issues with caring for spruce trees as the European spruce is quite a hardy species. They are very long-lived, with some trees growing to be over 200 years old, and are capable of producing clones through root branches. These types of spruce trees show rapid growth, given the right environmental conditions, and can reach heights of over 100 feet (30.48 m); the tallest known European spruce is in Bosnia-Herzegovina's Sutjeska National Park and stands 207 feet(63.0936 m) tall.
The main dangers to growing spruce trees come from acid rain and other pollution problems, which stunt the tree growth, and from the spruce beetle, which can destroy the tree bark. The prevalent soil and environmental conditions also affect the quality of the timber and, as in the case of the spruce timber from Germany, it may not be quite good enough, especially not for making musical instruments. At present the best European spruce timber comes from Slovenia, Croatia, Switzerland, Italy and France.