What Is the State Tree of Colorado?

Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The state tree of Colorado is the blue spruce, or Picea Pungens — a particularly symbolic and symmetrical choice. This evergreen is known for being hardy and, when linked with others, painful to penetrate its ranks. Despite sharp needles and cones, the tree and its close cousins are popular for landscaping all through many northern states, particularly for its silvery-blue hue and the near-seamless cover it provides along property lines and wind breaks.

The blue spruce grows throughout the peaks and foothills of Colorado's portion of the Rocky Mountains, often in small groves but sometimes among stands of pine, spruce or fir trees. It is an iconic image in the foreground of many mountain-peaked photographs of the state as well as others around the American West. Colorado legislators approved the tree as a state symbol in 1939. It is also Utah's state tree.

This prominence in the landscape has not translated to many cultural applications. The state tree of Colorado does not appear in many state symbols like the flag or seal. The closest it comes to being mentioned in an official context is in one of the two state songs, "Where the Columbines Grow." Composer A.J. Fynn devotes the song to the state's official wildflower, the white or lavender Columbine, to show how, though many species of animal had disappeared, the flower remained to help define the "purple-robed West." In the chorus, Fynn quickly sweeps past the state tree, or at least its family of species: "Tis the land where the columbines grow."

During an early expedition West, European settlers first noted the state tree of Colorado near Pikes Peak in 1862. Botanist C.C. Parry is credited with the discovery, though natives surely knew about its existence before him. The trees grow to tall conical peaks in Colorado, near the southern end of their natural habitat to as tall as 135 feet (41 m) high and 35 feet (11 m) wide. Further north into its Canadian habitat, the trees grow to slightly smaller statures.

The state tree of Colorado is famous for utilitarian and aesthetic reasons across several northern states. Blue spruce particularly grow in or near the U.S. Department of Agriculture's hardiness zones 2 to 5. This location is a band of occasionally frigid territories in Canada and the United States that tend to resist long periods of extreme heat.

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