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Colorado State Tree

Colorado Blue Spruce Picea pungens Adopted:1939
Colorado State Tree: Colorado Blue Spruce
Colorado State Tree: Colorado Blue Spruce
Photograph by Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service

Adoption of the Colorado State Tree

Surgeon and botanist Charles Christopher Parry (1823-1890) spent a number of summers exploring and collecting specimens in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. In fact many peaks carry names bestowed by this man who was to be referred to as the "King of Botanists." Gray's Peak, Torrey's Peak, Mount Engelmann, and James Peak were named in honor of his fellow botanists and Mount Eva was named for his second wife.

Pikes Peak had last been visited by Edwin James 42 years earlier when Parry set about exploring and "botanizing" this famous landmark in 1862. On this expedition, Charles Parry came across the stately, pyramidal spruce tree with stiff blue-gray to dark green needles that we call blue spruce or Colorado blue spruce today. The blue spruce is also sometimes referred to as the silver spruce and pino real.

In 1876, Colorado entered the union. Of course, one of the first orders of business was to define the state seal that would be affixed to official state papers. But adoption of a flag, a flower, a song and a state tree were on the horizon.

In 1883 the Colorado Horticultural Society was made a state bureau with the name being changed to the State Board of Horticulture in 1893. Its duties were to protect and promote the horticultural interests in the state. And one of its projects was to initiate a campaign to educate Colorado's school children about the trees of their state.

A couple of society members put together a brochure that could be used by schoolteachers to stimulate discussion of Colorado trees with their students. In addition, a contest was called for Arbor Day, 1892, at which time Colorado school children would vote for their favorite tree. The most popular tree would then be nominated as the official state tree of Colorado.

Denver, Colorado High School teacher George L. Cannon, Jr. defined some characteristics that should be present in a state tree. He thought that the tree should grow in the mountains and offer an accurate representation of the Colorado mountain landscape. The tree should be familiar, hardy, of practical value and, of course, beautiful.

When the votes were counted in April 1892, the Colorado blue spruce won the day by a more than two to one over the second-place white fir. Various firs and pines, joined by a scattering of votes for the Engelmann spruce, cedar, cottonwood, box elder, maple and Colorado's famous aspen were also counted.

Unfortunately, it took the Colorado Legislature until 1939 to officially adopt the school children's choice as the Colorado state tree. By House Joint Resolution No. 7, the Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens) was adopted as the official state tree by the Colorado General Assembly on March 7, 1939.

The Colorado Revised Statutes

The Colorado state tree was adopted by Concurrent Resolution and is not recorded as statutory law.

Additional Information

Colorado State Tree: Colorado Blue Spruce
Colorado State Tree: Colorado Blue Spruce
© 2005 Louis-M. Landry. Used with permission.

Picea pungens: University of Connecticut Plant Database of Trees, Shrubs and Vines.

Colorado Spruce (Picea pungens Engelm.): Tree Identification Fact Sheet from the Virginia Tech.

Plant Profile for Picea pungens Engelm. (Blue Spruce): USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Picea pungens Engelm. (Blue Spruce): United States Department of Agriculture: Forest Service: Agriculture Handbook 654: Silvics of North America.

Picea pungens Engelm. (Blue Spruce): Plant Encyclopedia from MyGardenGuide.

State Tree List: List of all of the state state trees.

A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs : Northeastern and north-central United States and southeastern and south-central Canada (Peterson Field Guides(R)): by George A. Petrides (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin; 2 edition (September 6, 1973).

A Field Guide to Western Trees (Peterson Field Guides: 44) (Paperback): by George A. Petrides, Olivia Petrides (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin; 2 edition (July 25, 1998)

A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain and Southwest Forests (Peterson Field Guides(R)) (Paperback): by John C. Kricher (Photographer), Gordon Morrison (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin; Revised edition (January 15, 1999).

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees : Western Region: by Elbert Luther Little, Knopf; Chanticleer Press ed edition (June 12, 1980).

America's Famous and Historic Trees: From George Washington's Tulip Poplar to Elvis Presley's Pin Oak (Hardcover) by Jeffrey G. Meyer. America's Famous and Historic Trees tells the stories of various trees that Meyer and his cohorts rescued or propagated: oftentimes, when trees were going to be cut down, he and his workers headed off the bulldozers, rescuing the tree with their massive tree hoe. Other trees--like the Indian Marker Pecan in southeast Dallas--were propagated before they died.

Trees : National Champions (Hardcover) by Barbara Bosworth. Bosworth captures the ineffable grace and dignity of trees with clarity and directness: the green ash that shades a midwestern crossroads, the common pear that blooms in a Washington field, and the Florida strangler fig with its mass of entwining aerial roots. Her black and white photographs, panoramic views taken with an 8 x 10 camera, show the immensity of the largest species and the hidden triumphs of the smallest

Plants, Seeds & Flowers: Bulbs, seeds, plants, fertilizer, plant containers and more.

Gardening Tools: Pruners, rakes, shovels, hoes, trowels, cultivators and tillers, greenhouses, yard carts and more.

State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002

State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: A Study based on historical documents giving the origin and significance of the state names, nicknames, mottoes, seals, flowers, birds, songs, and descriptive comments on the capitol buildings and on some of the leading state histories, Revised Edition - George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938 (Reprint Services Corp. 1971)


Source: Colorado Revised Statutes, (http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/olls/HTML/colorado_revised_statutes.htm), October 7, 2005
Source: State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002
Source: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: Revised Edition (Reprint)- George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938

 
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