Engelmann Spruce, Picea engelmannii

Engelmann Spruce

Picea engelmannii treePicea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm.

(pie-SEE-uh  eng-guhl-MAN-ee-i)

Names: Engelmann Spruce was named after George Engelmann, a St. Louis physician, botanist, and Colorado plant collector, whose botanical collection became the now world-famous Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.) .

Distribution of Engelmann Spruce from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Engelmann Spruce from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution:    Engelmann Spruce is native to British Columbia and Alberta, south to Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico.  In Washington and Oregon, it is mostly limited to the subalpine forests on the eastern side of the Cascades, with just a few, but some of the biggest in the Olympic Mountains.

Growth: The largest Engelmann Spruce is along the North Cascade Highway and is over 220 feet (67m) tall!   Typically, they only reach 120-150 feet (35-45m).  These trees typically live over 400 years. You can find stunted and dwarfed Engelmann Spruces “Krummholz” in subalpine regions.

Engelmann Spruce, Glacier National Park

Engelmann Spruce, Glacier National Park

Habitat: Engelmann Spruce is shade tolerant and will grow in a forest understory until a disturbance allows it to replace the canopy species.  It also is able to withstand cold temperatures and is often found growing in cold air drainages coming down from the mountains.

Wetland designation: FAC, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.Spruce habitat

Picea engelmannii coneDiagnostic Characters: Engelmann Spruce can be distinguished from Sitka Spruce by its 4-sided needles that can be felt when rolled between your fingers.

In the landscape: Engelmann Spruce can be used in large-scale plantings, in parks or along highways.

Nursery at Glacier National Park

Nursery at Glacier National Park

Propagation requirements Stored seeds should not be allowed to dry out.  Seeds need no stratification and should be planted early in the spring on the surface of a mixed mineral/organic soil. Cuttings from current year’s growth, with a heel of older wood, is most successful when treated with 3000ppm IBA, and stuck into sand. Cuttings may be taken from June to October.  Layering is also an option.

Use by People: The wood is not used much in the Cascades due to its relative scarcity and inaccessibility. In other regions, it is used for high quality lumber and for paper pulp. Natives did not use it much either, because it was not near where they lived or hunted.

Krummholz—Elfin Trees

Trees that are modified by their habitat in the subalpine regions of mountains are given the name “Krummholz” (“crooked tree” in German).  The “Krummholz Zone” is the area characterized by these dwarfed and twisted trees just below the Alpine Zone.  Typical species include Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis), Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii), and Subalpine Larch (Larix lyallii).



USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California


Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service Fire effects information system

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech Fact Sheet + Landowner Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

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