Blue and Engelmann Spruce


How to Tell Engelmann Spruce and Blue Spruce Apart


Characteristic               Engelmann Spruce                         Blue Spruce

                                       Picea engelmannii                           Picea pungens


Bark -                            Mature bark scales appear                Mature bark scales

Mature trees                 larger, looser, and more                    look hard and tend to

                                       randomly arranged.  Scales              be oriented in vertical

                                       are gray, but underbark is                rows or ridges.  Mature

                                       purplish or reddish-brown.               bark is brown to gray.


Bark -                            Bark on young trees is light             Bark on young trees has

Saplings                         gray, sometimes with a                    flaky reddish-brown

                                       yellowish tinge.  It may be               scales.

                                       nearly smooth or have fine

                                       textured scales.


Form -                           Form is wider, and top may             Form is often very

Mature trees                 flatten with age.  Branches              narrow, and typically

                                       are angled.                                        retain a pointed top into

                                                                                                old age.  Branches often

                                                                                                stick almost straight out.


Form -                           Branches look less stiff,                   Branches are stiff, and

Saplings                         rarely form planes, and                    nearly at right angles to

                                       give a softer appearance.                  trunk.  Appearance of



Color                             Not reliable, as variations                 Not reliable, as variations

                                       exist within species.                         exist within species.



Twigs                             Needles and pegs are more              Needles and pegs are

                                       acutely angled to twig.  Look          at right angles to twig.

                                       and feel is softer.                             Look and feel is bristly.


Needles                          Base of needles and twig has          Needles and twigs are

                                       small hairs (best seen with a             smooth, no hairs.  Tip is

                                       hand lens on current growth).          sharper.

                                       Tip is duller.                                    


Cones                             Cones are shorter, usually                Cones are longer,

                                       under 2" in length.  Cone                 usually over 3" in length.

                                       scales are generally duller.               Cone scales are generally



When an individual character is ambiguous, looking at several characteristics should be decisive.


partially based on an approach by John Jones and Nelson Bernard (1977)