Norway spruce cones

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#11)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby dbhguru » Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:48 pm

Gaines,

 What are the typical criticisms you've read or heard about Norway spruce, right or wrong. What are the source or sources of the criticisms?

Bob
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#12)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby gnmcmartin » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:16 pm

Bob:

  Just a couple of examples I can find immediately:  Knowing Your trees, 1964 edition, says this: "Norway spruce usually begins to deteriorate before reaching 60 feet, and seldom lives more than 100 years."  And this from The guide to Garden Trees and Shrubs, by Norman Taylor: "A ubiquitous second rate evergreen, but not long lived, and becoming straggly with age."  The forester I talked to about HWA said the same kinds of things you are hearing up in MA--that the tree is ugly, are not long lived with stands very early becoming overmature, and are best removed ASAP.

  Of course, some of the prejudice may come from those who object to "exotic" species being grown in the US.  Other people have different "aesthetic" preferences.  One person I talked to--not a tree aficionado, as such--said "I don't like trees with space between the branches."

  Anyway, Norway spruce is not an especially long-lived tree, with a Maximum, in a few cases, of something like 400 years, but reliably 200 plus.  It also CAN become "straggly" in appearance when old when not growing on an appropriate soil. In that regard, although very adaptable generally, it is does not do well in soils low in Magnesium content.  Also, some strains are less appropriate than others for the climates where they are planted.

  So, I won't say that there has been no basis at all for the negative "press" that NS has received.  But, a big problem is that a tree's "reputation," and NS has long had a bad one in some quarters, influences how one sees a tree. Michael Dirr wrote his description of NS as he did originally, even though he spent a lot of time at Michigan State University, where the campus is full of wonderful specimens, which he readily admitted in our conversation. For a long time, I myself was influenced by what I had read. Of course, another factor, perhaps in part motivating Dirr's original account in his book, is a preference for other trees and other spruces.

  When I bought the large second parcel of my timberland up in the MD mountains, there was an extensive planting of NS.  My thought was to have them removed.  Then one day as I was driving up into PA to visit some antique stores with my wife, I decided to stop and walk down into the extensive older NS plantation along Route 40 west of Keyser's ridge. I did this because of my interest in trees/forests generally, not because of any expectations.  My eyes suddenly opened--wow! I was reminded, at least a bit, of the wonderful forests in the Pacific NW.

  We then proceeded up to Addison PA and stopped at the Augustine craft shop.  Right there were some large old NS trees--really, really nice ones. I said to myself, "what??" I made a point of talking to the owner, and asked about the trees.  I can't now remember exactly how old he said they were, but they were very old--I think he said 175 years or something.  If they are still there, add 25 years now.

  Well, my eyes were opened.  As soon as I got back from GC and had time, I was on the phone, "big time."  I think I talked to everyone in the US who had any interest or knowledge of NS, or I really tried to, with each person leading me to one or two more.  I spent hours and hours and hours.  One of the people I found was Jim Kokenderfer at the USFS experiment/research station in Parson's WV.  He loved NS, and led me to his favorite stands in WV, including the one near Glady, and so it went, and I became a big NS enthusiast.

  And then I found John Genys who I mentioned earlier, and I worked to help him get seed from various provenances for his trial.  I collected from all the stands I knew of, and solicited seed samples from several seed suppliers.

  Of course, the "Nexus" of NS love was at SUNY Syracuse, with Ed White leading, with others, including Charles Maynard, in the supporting cast.  Charles Maynard was an important part of the team that did the gene transfer to create a blight-resistant, or "immune" stain of American chestnut. Charles Maynard has established at least one provenance trail of NS, and is overseeing two others established years earlier.

  I also talked to people who knew something about the history of NS planting in "the New World," and "cultural" aspects, such as the tradition of planting "bride and groom" trees, etc. And, as a part of all this, I found and had measured--at the time--the national champion NS on the campus of Hamilton College.  My name never got associated with that tree, because someone else had seen it and mentioned it to AF without my knowledge. But no one ever followed up until I arranged for the official measurement.

  But, In spite of my current enthusiasm for this species, I must admit, I was blinded to NS's virtues for a long time, so I am not quick to rant against those still similarly blinded.

  --Gaines
Last edited by gnmcmartin on Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#13)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby dbhguru » Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:10 pm

Gaines,


 Thanks very much. You've given me a lot of useful information to share with others about the Norways.

Bob
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#14)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby gnmcmartin » Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:03 am

Bob, and others interested in Norway spruce:

  I left out a couple of important things related to poor performing Norway spruce.  One problem for landscape/ornamental plantings is its high sensitivity to weed control lawn chemicals. I don't have any data on specific chemicals and the application rates that can cause NS problems, but damage to Norway spruce is quite common, usually leading to the thin scraggly appearance, and/or death. Colorado spruce I believe is sensitive also, and perhaps other spruces.  But the problem seems to be worse for NS than any other tree.

  Next, Norway spruce has a habit of "hanging on to life" in very harsh conditions rather than dying quickly as do many other trees. I had a discussion about this with Charles Maynard of SUNY Syracuse, and he explained by saying that Norway spruce is a robust species.  I can't now remember exactly how he defined "robust" in this context, but the gist is that the tree is very strong in the face of various kinds of "adversity," and "chooses" to reduce its foliage and adjust to the harsh conditions, whatever they are, rather than dying, as some other trees would do. Hence, we see more poor specimens than would otherwise be the case. My own observations of certain individual trees suggests that NS can often recover from severe stresses, and sometimes return to full health, but that takes time.

  And, while I have your attention: I mentioned that a study was done at SUNY Syracuse of growth curves. What was found in their extremely meticulous study is that after a NS tree reaches 4.5 feet in height (trees can be slow starters),  for the next 50 years the growth rate is absolutely steady, with no decline, even at the 50-year mark. Virtually all other trees grown in the NE quadrant of the US show a decline during the first fifty years, so the line on the graph bends over, so to speak. For NS the line on the graph is absolutely straight. Not long after age 50, or 60, the growth rate of NS does decline significantly. On the best sites in central NY, in the 50 years after achieving 4.5 feet, NS grows to a height of about 114 feet. On my timberland, they seem to be doing slightly better than that.

  Eastern white pine shows a radically different growth curve, quickly accelerating to a very fast growth rate, and then very substantially declining between the ages of something like 30 to 50 or so, so that at that point, NS is growing faster. On my timberland, if the NS is not overtopped by white pine early, the height of the two species is essentially equal at age 50. After age 50 or 60, I believe that white pine may take the lead in growth rate again, but I have no data to back that up.

  The site factors study done at SUNY has one or two somewhat surprising results, perhaps the most unusual is that position on a slope, and aspect, have no impact, at least in Central NY, where the study was done. Of course, position on a slope usually affects soil depth and texture, but in isolation from other factors, whether a tree is growing high or low on a SW facing slope, or a NE facing slope, makes no difference.

  Also, In a study that as far as I know, remains unpublished, SUNY did a thorough study of NS root growth, at least on one or two soils. Edwin White summed this up by saying that NS roots grow extremely aggressively, and that they "very efficiently fill up the available soil."  If anyone ever visits my timberland, I can show one very special aspect of NS root growth. One thing that I have observed is that the roots of NS that often grow very near the surface, do so even in somewhat dry climates like that here in Winchester, VA, and even where the soil is well drained and deep. These roots also can extend far from the tree.  What???

  Well, I won't say that NS is my favorite species of tree, or that it is superior to eastern white pine, or whatever, but in the face of all the negative stuff that has been published about the species, I have taken on the job of "setting the record straight."  And, in addition to its beauty, NS has some especially interesting and remarkable characteristics. I was wonderfully pleased when I found that many NTS members share my appreciation of Norway spruce.

  --Gaines
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#15)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby dbhguru » Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:52 pm

Gaines,

  We are indebted to you for this very useful information. I plan to make maximum use of it to promote the Buckland State Forest Norway spruces.

Bob
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#16)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby Joe » Tue Apr 18, 2017 2:02 pm

Since some species here in New England are lost or not doing well, the chestnut, elm, hemlock and others- it's not wise for the state to dislike NS as it does. It's just not rational.

But, what happens in forestry is that- by and large- it's not a sophisticated profession. Once the word goes out about some desired policy- everyone else just sings that tune. Disagreeing with that tune does not advance your career. This is true in many career paths, but particularly bad in forestry.
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#17)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby gnmcmartin » Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:15 pm

Joe:

  In Maryland, a land owner can't get any Forestry Incentives Program (FIP) assistance to plant any non-native species, including, of course, Norway spruce. A few years ago--last time I checked--one could apply for a waiver for a planting of 5% of any re-forestation project.  This strict limitation is after so many native species are threatened or wiped out, including hemlocks--and while the overpopulation of deer makes planting white pine potentially a waste. And all this while, it seems to me, not nearly enough is being invested in trying to control HWA. For control of HWA on my timberland--and my timberland is a "nexus" of fine hemlock growth of considerable ecological value--I can get NO state support. The only recommendation--they WILL make a recommendation--is to cut and sell hemlock while I can. But plant NS, or larch, or any other "alien" species--no! No support for that either. Maybe having our forests reduced to fewer and fewer species is fine.

  Of course, at my own expense, I can plant what I want.  Will a law be passed to prevent that? Well, I can bear the planting expense myself since I can do the work, and am happy to do it, but can other landowners?

  --Gaines
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#18)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby gnmcmartin » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:17 am

Bob:

  I think I may have finally solved a mystery, and maybe you can give me some information that could help confirm this.  Here is the mystery:

  Something like 15 years ago my wife and I travelled up into NY and MA.  One of the things we did was get the national champion NS measured.  When I was on the phone searching for everyone who knew anything about Norway spruce, one forester told me about the big one on the Hamilton College campus.  I did not know that it had already been nominated, but not followed up on.

  Well, that forester also told me about a wonderful stand of NS in NW MA.  He gave me directions, sort of.  He said that this stand was older than any others he had seen, and that when he was a young, he used to enjoy walking through these trees, and the beauty of them was a primary reason that he decided to become a forester.  I wish I had saved his name.  Anyway, my wife Patricia and I spent a day searching for these trees and could not find them.  We called him that night and told him where we had been and asked for more directions.  He tried again to direct us, but again, we drove along all kinds of roads, spending another whole day, but again failed. We would not have made this effort if he had not told us that this stand of NS was extraordinarily beautiful, and, he thought, older than the CCC plantings.

  Well, it finally hit me, could these trees have been in Buckland State Forest, which is not that far away from where we were searching?  Memory plays tricks on people, and the forester who told me about this wonderful stand of NS had not been there for something like 30 or 40 years.  When he became a forester, he got a job some distance away in NY. So maybe time had led to confusion.

  So, what he described was a stand of NS of at least some extent, not just a few tall trees. So, how large is the planting of NS in Buckland?  Can you give a general description of the planting? --and when it may have been planted? I think some of the CCC plantings were done as early as 1933.  When this forester described the stand to me, he gave me the idea that it could have been somewhat older, but other than the Rothkugel in WV, I am not aware of any forest planting of NS before the CCC plantings.  I can't say with any confidence that there weren't any, but I had not heard any definitive information that there were either.

  Anyway, if you say that the Buckland NS planting is more than just a few trees--one of several acres or more, then maybe, mystery solved--the NS forest my wife and I searched and searched for, was in Buckland.  The other possibility, which is what I had assumed, is that it was cut. If this forester had not made me think that this stand was very special, and, as he believed, planted earlier than the CCC plantings, we would not have made the extraordinary effort.

  --Gaines
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#19)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby wisconsitom » Tue May 02, 2017 10:00 am

In addition to Gaine's wonderful NS info here, I can state with certainty that compared to white pine (and red pine for that matter), NS starts slowly.  Where we machine-planted 6000 seedlings 4 springs back, one 4th were NS.  The fastest to take off and "get over the weed layer" were easily the white pines.  Red pine follows up 2nd, and NS a distant 3rd.  All are surviving in sandy loam soil on a moderate SE aspect.  A planting of the same mix in '08 shows that NS does indeed get up and running quickly, if not quite so fast as the pine species.

I should mention, all of these plantings were accompanied by liberal use of Larix x marschlinsii.  That particular entity makes all of these others look like bums.  We're looking at the need to thin plantings of the larch within 10 years of planting!  But I digress.  Where we are doing our work, soil is surprisingly high-pH for as far north as we are.  I surmise that glaciers somehow dragged higher pH and CEC materials from further south as they retreated north.  Not sure that makes actual sense, but in any case, where our land is, farms are still commonplace, soil is considered good, and the trees show it.  Indeed, it was the presence of thick, luxuriant stands of native Thuja occidentalis that all but told me this was good soil, of higher pH and mineral content.  And as Gaines mentions, such a soil is not deficient in the cations-calcium, magnesium, etc. so critical to good growth of this species.

There is an area of SE Wisconsin-really, all the burgs just north of Milwaukee-where due to heavy German settlement, NS abounds everywhere you look.  Soils in this region are higher pH, rich in nutrients, stony, and reasonably well-drained, depending on slope position, etc.  The small city of Cedarburg would be an ideal locus for one interested in viewing many, many large, old NS in good shape, and apparently still growing.  One of my sons lives in that community and we often marvel at the rich treescape of the area.
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#20)  Re: Norway spruce cones

Postby wisconsitom » Tue May 02, 2017 10:02 am

In addition to Gaine's wonderful NS info here, I can state with certainty that compared to white pine (and red pine for that matter), NS starts slowly.  Where we machine-planted 6000 seedlings 4 springs back, one 4th were NS.  The fastest to take off and "get over the weed layer" ( not counting larch, which
I'll discuss later)were easily the white pines.  Red pine follows up 2nd, and NS a distant 3rd.  All are surviving in sandy loam soil on a moderate SE aspect.  A planting of the same mix in '08 shows that NS does indeed get up and running quickly, if not quite so fast as the pine species.

I should mention, all of these plantings were accompanied by liberal use of Larix x marschlinsii.  That particular entity makes all of these others look like bums.  We're looking at the need to thin plantings of the larch within 10 years of planting!  But I digress.  Where we are doing our work, soil is surprisingly high-pH for as far north as we are.  I surmise that glaciers somehow dragged higher pH and CEC materials from further south as they retreated north.  Not sure that makes actual sense, but in any case, where our land is, farms are still commonplace, soil is considered good, and the trees show it.  Indeed, it was the presence of thick, luxuriant stands of native Thuja occidentalis that all but told me this was good soil, of higher pH and mineral content.  And as Gaines mentions, such a soil is not deficient in the cations-calcium, magnesium, etc. so critical to good growth of this species, and NS.

There is an area of SE Wisconsin-really, all the burgs just north of Milwaukee-where due to heavy German settlement, NS abounds everywhere you look.  Soils in this region are higher pH, rich in nutrients, stony, and reasonably well-drained, depending on slope position, etc.  The small city of Cedarburg would be an ideal locus for one interested in viewing many, many large, old NS in good shape, and apparently still growing.  One of my sons lives in that community and we often marvel at the rich treescape of the area.
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