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I'm looking for the perfect tree to create a low maintenance living privacy hedge/windbreak in an approximately 100'x100' area. About 20' from one part of the area, water pools sporadically. I'm eyeing Norway spruce, White spruce, and White pine. I'd prefer a native species to NY, but White pine doesn't seem to have the wind resistance I'm looking for or density necessary for a privacy screen. I was thinking White spruce, but Norway seems to possibly have better wind resistance, combined with faster growth and a broader mature spread so I won't have to spend as much on tree seedlings. Wind resistance is important because these trees, though entirely on our property, will be within fifty feet of a neighbor's house and would fall her way due to prevailing wind.

I'm worried if I plant Norway spruce, which is native to Europe, the tree may eventually become invasive in the local environment. Is this a legitimate concern with Norway spruce, or a nonissue? Any other advice for the privacy screen/windbreak welcome.

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  • Thanks all for the information and perspectives on Norway spruce. I'm still undecided, but leaning toward native species out of personal preference and slight suspicion toward the Norway spruce. (I acknowledge the tree is probably safe to plant in my area... many neighbors have Norway spruce already.) My over cautiousness is possibly a result of ongoing battles with Japanese knotweed and multiflora rose. – Kilobyte Nov 14 '20 at 17:12
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I grew up with a Norway Spruce in my front yard, planted by my grandfather in the early 1940s. It's still there today - pretty tall (maybe 60-70 feet) and way too wide for a 35 foot wide lot. For probably that reason, Norway Spruces are my favorite type of spruce.

I think they'd be a good choice for your windbreak. This site has nice write-ups on a variety of evergreen trees that could be used for windbreaks, and they love this tree. As for invasiveness, my own experience in Wisconsin is that it is not invasive in this state (note that this is anecdotal). There are three large Norway Spruces in the park across the street from my house and I've never found a seedling. There's a single yew behind my house and I have seedlings everywhere. I also have some arbs on my own lot and elsewhere and their seeds are also everywhere. Same with Juniperus virginiana (a native). So - I would say invasiveness is not a problem here.

OTOH, this ten-year-old site does indicate that it can be invasive in New England, but that it is NOT on the invasive species list at that time. Note that it gets the height of the tree incorrect, so take it with a grain of salt? A quick tour of the internet found no other sites that consider this tree to be invasive. Dr. Michael Dirr, expert on woody plants of North America, does not mention invasiveness as a problem—he does consider some of the cultivars to be so ugly that they'll scare the deer, though :)

Note - Norway Spruce is not on New York's invasive species list.

Important note - like other spruces (and pines), Norway Spruce is susceptible to Rhizosphaera needle cast disease, but it's resistant than most spruce. This web site from UMass is probably the most relevant that I could find in your area about this disease. The Universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and Iowa State University also have excellent information about this disease, if you're interested.

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  • Thanks Jurp! I had a similar childhood experience with a neighbors' Norway Spruce, but instead of pleasant memories, I remember its sticky defenses against young tree climbers. I'm a big fan of the Windbreak Trees site. Thank you especially for the info on needle cast disease. This is a big worry for me, as I want to plant White and Blue spruce if not Norway spruce and have seen many defoliated Blue spruce in our area. – Kilobyte Nov 14 '20 at 17:02
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It is indeed considered invasive due to its shade tolerance when young but dense shade producing habit when mature. The cat is probably out of the bag on this one though - it's the most widely cultivated spruce species in North America, according to this source.

FTFA:

It is mostly green mosses that can survive in the environment of well developed Norway spruce stands. These are typical northern conifer forest (taiga) dominants--same exact species that dominate Canadian as well as north European conifer forests, for example, Hylocomium splendens or Pleurozium schreberi. No tree from Massachusetts known to us can share dominance with Norway spruce: the spruce appears to always form single-species stands.

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    Actually, according to Dr. Dirr, they much prefer full sun to shade. Because these trees were first planted in New England during Colonial times, the fact that the entire area is not over-run with them indicates to me, at least, and apparently to the vast majority of scientific sites on the internet that any "invasiveness" is over-blown. – Jurp Nov 11 '20 at 23:44
  • My only point was that the species has been declared invasive in some areas, which is what the OP asked. Just because a plant doesn't overrun an area does not mean it's not invasive. – DCookie Nov 12 '20 at 13:24
  • My point is that no one in authority HAS declared the plant invasive in New York. Authors of web sites (especially outliers like the two we've cited), have their own biases and when those biases are not backed up with scientific results, then the authors are spreading their own opinion as fact: i.e. misinformation. I checked diligently - no one has authored any scientifically rigorous study that shows Norway Spruce is invasive. To say categorically that the tree IS invasive does a disservice to both the OP and to Horticulture. Our field suffers too much from anecdotal "facts" already – Jurp Nov 12 '20 at 15:14
  • Thank you both for your input! I agree that "the cat is out of the bag" - I see cultivated Norway spruce almost everywhere I look in my area, though as Jurp mentioned, I've never noticed seedlings under these trees... on the other hand, it's often mowed grass below the trees, and I'm not sure if I'll always be mowing beneath ours. I appreciate the skaag.org link and info/pictures there. – Kilobyte Nov 14 '20 at 16:58
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It is labeled "Invasive" however given it's slow growth rate it's not that big a ddeal. The problem is when it first deposits seeds they have the potential to spread because they're shade tolerant growing slowly but strongly. Native species include "White Spruce" (Picea Glauca) "Eastern Red Cedar"

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