Picea omorika – a new endemo-relict species

Picea_omorika

Picea omorika, common name Serbian spruce (Serbian: Pančićeva omorika), is a species of coniferous tree endemic to the Drina River valley in western Serbia, and eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a total range of only about 60 ha, at 800–1,600 m (2,625–5,249 ft) altitude. It was originally discovered near the village of Zaovine (Serbia) on the Tara Mountain in 1875, and named by the Serbian botanist Josif Pančić; the specific epithet omorika is simply the Serbian word for “Serbian spruce”. All other spruces are smrča.

It is a medium-sized evergreen tree growing to 20 m (66 ft) tall, exceptionally 40 m (131 ft), with a trunk diameter of up to 1 m (3 ft). The shoots are buff-brown, and densely pubescent (hairy). The leaves are needle-like, 10–20 mm long, flattened in cross-section, dark blue-green above, and blue-white below. The cones are 4–7 cm (2–3 in) long, fusiform (spindle-shaped, broadest in the middle), dark purple (almost black) when young, maturing dark brown 5–7 months after pollination, with stiff scales.

Picea_omorika
Natural range

Cultivation

Outside its native range, Serbian spruce is of major importance as an ornamental tree in large gardens, valued in northern Europe and North America for its very attractive crown form and ability to grow on a wide range of soils, including alkaline, clay, acid and sandy soil, although it prefers moist, drained loam.

It is also grown to a small extent in forestry for Christmas trees, timber and paper production, particularly in northern Europe, though its slow growth makes it less important than Sitka spruce or Norway spruce. In cultivation, it has produced hybrids with the closely related Black spruce P. × Machala and also with Sitka spruce.

Ecology

Because of its limited range, it is not a major source of nutrition to wildlife, but does provide cover for birds and small mammals. Prior to the Pleistocene ice ages, it had a much larger range throughout most of Europe