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Picea asperata - Chinese or dragon spruce


The Chinese or dragon spruce is a close relative of the native (despite its common name in English) Norway spruce (P. abies). It is native to western China and so far the only Chinese conifer to have shown itself hardy in Finland. The best distinguishing features from the Finnish species are the greyish needles and the red-brown scaly trunk. There are few other differences and if seed is gathered from collections, many seedlings turn out to be hybrids of the two. There are trees believed to be Chinese spruce growing as far north in Finland as Oulu, so given the right provenance it can be grown throughout most of the country.

The Chinese spruce at Mustila are of two different provenances. The most successful specimen is from seed collected by the famous plant hunter Ernest Henry Wilson and gifted to Mustila in 1910. The remnants of a small plantation among the pines above Etelärinne (Southern Slope) are from seed collected by Joseph Rock and planted in the 1930s. These are sadly stunted and give a false impression of the species, which at its best is a handsome tree. Like many spruce from southern mountain areas, the Chinese spruce demands rich soil and lots of light to develop properly into a beautiful tree.


Picea abies - common spruce, Norway spruce

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The Norway spruce is the second commonest tree species in Finland. When the continental glaciers thawed and withdrew, the spruce was the last tree species to spread into the country, from the east rather than from the west, which is where most Finnish species have come from. About 5000 years ago the cooling climate and increasing humidity favoured the spruce over its rival broadleaf species, which had arrived much earlier. The current limit was achieved about 3000 years ago, the tree-line for spruce being at slightly lower altitudes and latitudes than for Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

The range of the Norway spruce is enormous, from the Atlantic coast in the west to Amur in the Russian Far East. The Siberian spruce (Picea obovata or Picea abies subsp. obovata) of northern Europe and Siberia is considered by some to be an independent species, by others a subspecies. It has adapted to a more continental, colder climate and less fertile soils; it differs from the Norway spruce only slightly: the cones of the Siberian are shorter with rounder scales; those of the Norway longer with more pointed scales. Most of the trees growing in Finland are of an intermediate form, Picea abies subsp. × fennica.

Spruce was one of the main tree species on the Northern Slope of what we now know as Arboretum Mustila before the founding of the Arboretum. Some of these stands - now over a century old - still exist, creating an ”old-growth” atmosphere. But since the beginning of the millennium some old stands have also been lost. As they gradually reach their natural age-limit they become susceptible to various diseases. Read more »

Picea abies f. pendula - weeping spruce


The columnar ‘weeping’ spruce is perhaps the most important of the special forms of conifer found in Finland. A rare, naturally occurring form of the ordinary Norway spruce (Picea abies), it has light, long, weeping branches. The best specimens grow as narrow pillars; their weeping branches hug the trunk, which is hidden behind their needles. Natural occurrences of weeping spruce can be found in several sites in Finland and elsewhere in Eurasia, where Norway spruce is common.

Weeping spruce are at their best in small groups. Because of their shape even a small garden can accommodate several. This low demand for space has been used in breeding for increased trunks/hectare production.


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