Norway spruce is found across Eastern Europe with native populations from as far south as Greece and as far north as the arctic circle. It has been grown in the UK for both timber and in large numbers for Christmas trees. Its higher levels of drought tolerance when compared to Sitka spruce as well as its ability to cope well with upland acid soils make it a species of some potential as we go forward with a potentially more uncertain climate.
The species accounts for 4.5% of the UK’s current conifer woodland cover. The species is prone to butt rot diseases and this often prevents stands from being held for longer rotations. That said the timber is considered to be of good quality.
Provenance sourcing has been changed over time with early plantings often originating from Northern Romania (toplita). These sources are no longer accessible and so select stand or orchard material from other European states is now the main source. Some provenance are particularly favoured for Christmas trees for their form and high branching levels, some care should be taken when sourcing plants for forestry purposes that these zones are avoided.
There are currently no UK seed orchards however the Co-op is actively looking for plus trees that could be used in potential new orchards.
Work is also in progress to add to the limited number of UK select stands.
The Co-op is looking at not only trying to expand the UK resource of improved material through the identification of plus trees and new seed stands but establishing comparative trials between UK seed stands and European seed orchards to provide more detailed information on which to favour in the future.