We breathe in the scent of fresh needles, collect cones and marvel at the graceful growth of different conifers in the forests. Sometimes we don’t even know what kind of tree it is. Spruce and fir may look confusingly similar, but if you know which details to look out for, you can still tell the Picea and Abies species apart. This guide reveals the difference between spruce and fir.

visual differences

Seen from a distance, there is a great danger of confusing spruce and fir. Interested parties should therefore take a closer look at the individual parts of the plant. The following features are used to identify Picea and Abies:

growth habit and size

Fir trees grow up to 70 meters tall, while spruce stays well below this size. However, the difference can only be seen if both trees are standing directly next to each other. It is therefore better if the viewer orients himself to the habitus. Fir trees have a rounded crown, while spruce has a pointed crown.

In addition, the fir tree appears to have grown much denser because its branches are arranged in a lively manner. The situation is different if the focus is only on individual branches. The branches of the spruce appear bushier.

Note: Despite small differences, Picea and Abies belong to the same family, the Pinaceae.



  • stand upright on the branches
  • compact arrangement


  • hanging from the branches
  • long and narrow
  • open when the temperature is warm
Tip: If there are cones on the forest floor, they are undoubtedly spruce cones. Pine cones never fall to the ground whole, but open up on the tree to release the seeds. They then disintegrate on the spot



  • blunt shape
  • have two white stripes on the underside
  • soft touch
  • arranged in two rows


  • spitz
  • even get stuck in the skin if the human exerts too much pressure
  • when you tear it off, a small brown flag sticks
  • significantly more needles on the branches
  • therefore the branches, with the exception of very young shoots, hang down under the load
  • are arranged around the branch
Tip: The feel of the needles is easy to remember with the proverb ‘The spruce stings, the fir doesn’t’.

Insightful comparison

Anyone who has a fir branch and a spruce branch but is unsure which of the two belongs to the Picea genus and the Abies genus should place them next to each other on a flat surface. Since the needles of the fir only grow on the left and right of the branch, it lies flat. The spruce branch, on the other hand, is slightly raised so that the needles grow all around and therefore protrude at the top and bottom.

Caution, risk of confusiontribeWhile fir and spruce needles can be distinguished quite well from each other, many people confuse the former with the foliage of the yew tree. Especially because this conifer is poisonous, caution is advised here. However, if you are really familiar with it, you will be able to identify the fir in a direct comparison by the more regular arrangement of the needles.

Norway spruce (Picea abies) and silver fir (abies alba) are common in this country. These two types of pine plants in particular have a distinctive bark that makes the difference between the two trees clear.


  • smooth structure
  • only cracked with age
  • gray to whitish color
  • increasingly dark with age
  • small resin bubbles often visible


  • scaly bark
  • reddish brown color at higher altitudes
  • reddish brown color at lower altitudes
  • mostly gray when old
  • rough structure due to peeling
Note: In theory, the bark of fir and spruce differs quite significantly. However, the appearance depends heavily on the location factors, so there is still a risk of confusion. In general, the bark is easier to identify when it is young.

Not visual differences

Although the roots are not visible to the viewer, they can still be used to distinguish between the two tree species. In contrast to fir, spruces are flat-rooted. Therefore, they are not as stable in storms and can be uprooted much more often.

wood and processing

Not only on a walk in the forest do many people want to know which conifer it is. The distinction between spruce and fir can also be of interest in furniture stores. Since the processed wood is no longer subject to the influence of the weather, the various characteristics are much more evident here.


  • strikingly bright
  • Difference between heartwood and sapwood is hardly noticeable
  • few resin canals inside
  • Resin secretions only on the surface
  • low dead weight
  • ideal as lumber
  • commonly used to make instruments


  • many resin canals
  • sticky in untreated form
  • Glossy when freshly planed (fades over time)
  • under the influence of UV radiation, the color changes from bright yellow or white to bright red
  • Commonly used for ceiling or interior wall cladding, for furniture, boxes or pallets, or for pulp productio

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