Picea abies 'Virgata'
Common Name: snake fir 
Type: Needled evergreen
Family: Pinaceae
Zone: 4 to 6
Height: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Air Pollution


Easily grown in average, acidic, evenly moist, well-drained soils in full sun. Performs well in rich sandy soils. Prefers cool summer climates, and often grows poorly south of USDA Zone 7. Established plants have some tolerance for dryish soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Picea abies, commonly called Norway spruce, is a large pyramidal evergreen conifer that is native to the mountains of northern and central Europe east to the Urals. In its native European habitat, it typically matures to 100-150' (occasionally to 200') tall. It has been widely planted in cool and temperate regions of North American where it typically matures to a much shorter 40-60' (less frequently to 100') tall. It is noted for its rapid growth. Primary branches are slightly upturned but secondary branches become pendulous as the tree matures. Branches are clad with spirally-arranged, four-sided, needle-like, deep green leaves which are attached at their bases to tiny pegs. Cylindrical seed bearing cones (to 9" long) are pendulous. In excess of 150 cultivars (mostly dwarf) have been named over the years. Cultivars can be very difficult to distinguish.

Genus name is reportedly derived from the Latin word pix meaning pitch in reference to the sticky resin typically found in spruce bark.

Specific epithet refers to its similarity to the genus Abies (fir).

'Virgata’ (sometimes designated as P. abies f. virgata) is a slow-growing conical cultivar that typically matures to 20' tall (infrequently taller) and to 12' wide. The main branches have few if any lateral branches, resulting in an unusual tree having snake-like branches with long dark green needles (to 1 1/4" long) on thick stems. Michael Dirr describes this tree has having a "Medusa-like beauty" featuring "long, almost buggy-whip like branches". 'Virgata' comes from the Latin virga (rod) in reference to the branches.


Cytospora canker, wood decay, needle cast and rust may occur. Watch for aphids, bagworms, budworms and borers. Red spider mites can be troublesome.


Accent for the landscape.