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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.