Hi everybody! Since we have at least 500 4' to 12' Norway Spruces that we are trying to focus on in regenerating this former monocrop Christmas tree farm, my family and I decided to focus on the Norway Spruce as the starting point of our niche analysis, and to later see what polycultures we can create around these trees. We had a great time discovering all of the benefits that this fantastic tree can provide for both us and nature. Can't wait to learn from others and what they chose for their niche analysis! Chris and family
Week 6—Niche Analysis on The Philosophy Family Farm: Norway Spruce (Picea abies).
⦁ Drought-tolerant, yet also tolerates wet soil (young saplings need a little bit of water help during dry conditions).
⦁ Tolerant of other competition from low-lying plants and grasses, especially as adult (saplings need some clearing around stem).
⦁ Fastest growing spruce (can grow 2 to 3 feet per year).
⦁ An excellent windbreak (for nesting birds and sheltering animals, and for soil and water retention).
⦁ Prefers full sun but also does well in partial shade and full shade.
⦁ Can be planted in wide variety of soil types—from poor to very fertile.
⦁ Highly deer-resistant.
⦁ Pest-tolerant (some attention required if problems with Spruce Gall Aphids, and spider mites).
⦁ Minimal care is needed.
⦁ Not much!
⦁ Minor pest control if aphid egg casings appear, by introducing ladybugs and/or green lacewings to control population—we have yet to experience any spider mites.
⦁ Making sure immediate area around saplings is clear of grasses and plants.
⦁ Watering saplings during very dry periods.
⦁ For our family farm business purposes, we choose to shear the trees to maintain a Christmas tree shape so they can be sold—this is very labor-intensive.
⦁ Spruce cones—large, seed-bearing cones (the largest of any spruce—4 to 7 inches long).
⦁ Needles bearing scented oils.
⦁ Needle-bearing branches.
⦁ Wood from the trunk.
⦁ Ability to sequester carbon.
⦁ Ability to store water.
⦁ Powerful antioxidant in spruce bark extract essential oils, when placed under the tongue.
⦁ Medicinal use of oils and bark for respiratory problems, skin problems, hormonal balancing; and is a calming agent when oil vapors are breathed in.
⦁ Oils can be used as an eco-friendly cleaning agent.
⦁ Varnish can be created from the resin.
⦁ Spruce oils can be used to create soaps and salts.
⦁ Historically and culturally, spruce beer can be made from a 1796 recipe for spruce beer.
⦁ The wood can provide structural lumber, paper, and string instrument tone wood.
⦁ Branches are good as a bow drill.
⦁ Socially, the tree provides the context for “family tree” engagement and educational activities.
⦁ Can be coppiced and sold as a CSA in a holiday tree tradition.
⦁ One average Norway Spruce can sequester 250 lbs. of CO2 per year.
⦁ One average Norway Spruce can absorb 4, 600 gallons of stormwater runoff per year.
⦁ One average Norway Spruce saves 185 kilowatt hours by reducing aerial temperatures.
⦁ Songbird habitat (4’-12’ trees provide nesting and perching habitat for songbirds, including Song Sparrows, American Robins, Prairie Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, and Field Sparrows); this height of tree also provides a perching site for Eastern Bluebirds hunting for insects, 12’-25’ trees provide nesting habitat for Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Field Sparrows, and vital perching/hunting habitat for Red-Tailed Hawks Sharp-Shinned Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks.
⦁ The Norway Spruce provides cover, concealment, and bedding for White-Tailed Deer, Red and Gray Foxes, and small prey hunting grounds for Coyotes.
⦁ Cleanses water moving downslope from the road to Miller Creek.
⦁ Has a symbiotic relationship with the Red Squirrel, with regards to the cone seeds that are consumed by the Red Squirrel in conjunction with its population.