A typical tree of the mountain forests of central Europe and the northern European taiga. It has a narrow, conical crown with branches arranged in regular whorls, and grows up to heights of more than 40 metres, in virgin stands up to 60 metres at the age of 400 to 700 years. The bark is brown and furrowed. The leaves, rhomboid in section, are borne on peg-like projections, a typical characteristic of all spruces, which give the twig a rough surface when the leaves have fallen. The female flowers resemble small, erect reddish 'candles' at first, but later change into pendant brown, elongate cones. The winged seeds are shed on warm and windy spring days.

The Norway spruce has a fairly shallow and spreading root system and is, therefore, easily uprooted by strong winds. It does not require a warm climate and is resistant to frosts. Its range in Europe extends to polar regions and to altitudes up to the tree line. In hilly country it prefers cool and shady valleys. It grows well in shade but requires fertile soil and moist air. It is marked by great variation and occurs in a number of different forms. The soft and flexible wood is widely used in the building industry, and the bark yields tannins.