PA wildernessadvocate and NS lovers generally:
As for spreading cones on the ground for reproduction, maybe. The big issue is the environment for the seedlings to grow once they germinate. Norway spruce seedlings do not compete well with weeds and grasses--not nearly as well as white pine. But, of course, on the richer heavier soils where the weed and grass competition is intense, white pine also reproduces poorly, if at all.
So, it is best to prepare a "seed bed," and one way to do that is to remove weeds and grass, plant the seeds, and then use some light mulch.
You can also grow NS seeds under the cover of other conifers--if the shade is not too intense. Cover them with just a tiny bit of soil, and some needles. Here the weed problem is very slight, and the little guys can get a start. Then you can transplant them out into the open, and keep the weeds controlled--they should not be covered/shaded. If you are in a hotter and drier area, you will have to water them a bit to help them get established once transplanted.
If you want to collect seed, the best/easiest way is to gather up the cones that the squirrels cut down. They may not be fully mature, but they will be close. To complete their "maturation," place them in the open air with about 3 hours of sun per day. More is not better, and could dry them out too fast. Of course, mice and squirrels will get them, so they need protection from that. I collected several hundred cones--maybe a thousand--years ago for Dr. John Genys, who was doing a provenance trial. He gave me the instructions, and germination turned out to be very, very high.
In the mountains of MD where my timberland is, NS reproduces effectively where there is the appropriate "ground." I have no difficulty finding seedlings for transplanting. In most areas of my timberland I find as many NS seedlings as white pine.
As for the Buckland NS: they may be growing in a particularly favorable environment generally, and very good soil specifically. Also, they may be an especially good strain for that area. Norway spruce grows over a very wide area in Europe with considerable climatic variation, and as a result, some strains are much better than others for different places in the US. Can anyone tell me about the cones from the trees in Buckland? --their length, the color, and/or any other characteristics that may make them different from the cones you see on other NS?
The best NS I have seen in the relatively nearby PA, MD, WV, VA area was a stand growing near Glady, WV. These trees produced cones unlike any others I have seen in this general area. Most NS planted during the CCC period were from the Black Forest in Germany, but the cones from these trees near Glady were radically different, indicating a completely different seed source. If someone has the time and patience, my guess is that the records for the Buckland planting could be found, and they would probably indicate the seed source.
As for NS stands deteriorating at this point--nuts. Except perhaps poor strains on poor soils. As for thinning--not needed for the ultimate health of the stand, just like white pine. Dr. Edwin White, former Dean of Research at SUNY Syracuse--now retired, but still available to talk to, is a great advocate for NS planting. He directed 4 research studies of NS, including growth curves and site factors. A call to the Department of Environmental Science and Forestry will get you copies.
He and I had a long conversation once about NS, covering different aspects of its growth and management. He told me with great confidence, that NS does not need any thinning to maintain the health of a plantation. That just like white pine, NS asserts dominance very effectively, and there is no tendency for stands, no matter what the initial planting density, to stagnate. Of course, careful thinning can be a benefit, and can enhance the appearance of a stand in the near and intermediate term. But in the very long term, thinning will make little difference.
Unthinned stands will tend, for many years, to be "choked" with overtopped trees. many of them dead or dying. This was the condition of the stand near Glady, WV that was so incredibly fine. The "average person" walking into that stand would have thought, "what a mess," but when I first saw it, and looked up at the towering dominant trees, with their graceful "curtains" of foliage "decorating" this forest cathedral, I was stunned into silence and awe, and was not distracted by the "mess" underneath.
Unfortunately, this stand was cut. I would be surprised if the potential was not for 175 feet, and probably more. The main factor was the strain, the seed source/provenance. The soil, which I looked up, was a class III, which is very ordinary, and the slope was SW. The elevation was about 3,500 feet, but I would have to check that. This stand should have been protected, and used as a seed source. I collected some seedlings, and I have three growing here in Winchester, VA, and they are doing very, very well here, even though the climate is quite different. One, especially, is a stunner for the beauty of its foliage--by far the best I have here out of about 400 from 4 different provenances. In the spring especially, with the fresh green growth, it is as pretty as anything I have ever seen on any tree.
Last edited by gnmcmartin
on Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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